Swiss Group Wants Limits on Speech Technology

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Online speech and face recognition systems should be better regulated to protect consumers, Swiss technology think tank the Foundation for Technology Assessment (TA-Swiss) has recommended.

In a recent report, the organization urged Swiss lawmakers to take a closer look at how digital technology that uses voice and facial recognition biometric data can impact society. It suggests that Swiss legislators ban three uses of speech and voice recognition algorithms and put a moratorium on a fourth.

The uses cases to be banned are autonomous, real-time government surveillance networks; government-run social credit applications that use speech or facial biometric algorithms; and autonomous decision-making if a system uses speech, speaker, and face recognition in "important life domains" like health, finance, employment, and law enforcement.

The organization also called for a moratorium on algorithms used in "sensitive life domains" to detect emotions and disease until they are proven reliable.

Furthermore, TA-Swiss is calling for close monitoring of semi-autonomous algorithms by trained staff who are responsible for the decisions, the elimination of speech-based biometrics as the only bases for authentication, and a ban on smart glasses that can be worn in public for surveillance purposes.

The report also suggests that lawmakers create an infrastructure for educating and protecting the public from civil rights abuses, a national conversation about the benefits and threats of biometrics, and the allocation of "sufficient resources" to trusted organizations working to inform and support people living with biometric surveillance.

The foundation, argued in the report that too little attention is being paid by Swiss authorities to the negative impacts of systems as basic and common as Amazon's Alexa digital assistant.

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