Turkish mobile phone operator Turkcell leads the list of companies most effectively using voiceprinting technology that allows biometric data of a person's voice to be used in identification, according to a report by the Associated Press.
A feature report by the news agency shows Turkcell has taken the voice biometric data of 10 million customers.
Voiceprinting allows companies to correctly identify their customers over the telephone, offering protection against fraud and is used for other security purposes.
Turkcell implemented voiceprinting technology in 2010 under a service called "Turkcell knows me by my voice." Authentication through voice eliminates the need for extra security questions like mother's maiden name or the amount of the most recent bill for Turkcell users and shortens the process by as much as 20 seconds, to about five seconds. Customers can sign up for the voiceprinting service for free and do not have to change their passwords as is the case with conventional passwords and security questions.
Businesses and governments around the world are increasingly turning to voice biometrics, or voiceprints, to pay pensions, collect taxes, track criminals and replace passwords.
"We sometimes call it the invisible biometric," said Mike Goldgof, an executive at Madrid-based AGNITiO, one of about 10 leading companies in the field.
Vendors say the timbre of a person's voice is unique in a way similar to the loops and whorls at the tips of someone's fingers.
Their technology measures the characteristics of a person's speech as air is expelled from the lungs, across the vocal folds of the larynx, up the pharynx, over the tongue, and out through the lips, nose, and teeth. Typical speaker recognition software compares those characteristics with data held on a server. If two voiceprints are similar enough, the system declares them a match.
The Vanguard Group Inc., a Pennsylvania-based mutual fund manager, is among the technology's many financial users. Tens of thousands of customers log in to their accounts by speaking the phrase: "At Vanguard, my voice is my password" into the phone.
"We've done a lot of testing, and looked at siblings, even twins," said executive John Buhl, whose voice was a bit hoarse during a telephone interview. "Even people with colds, like I have today, we looked at that."
In the U.S., law enforcement officials use the technology to monitor inmates and track offenders who have been paroled.
In New Zealand, the Internal Revenue Department celebrated its 1 millionth voiceprint, leading the revenue minister to boast that his country had "the highest level of voice biometric enrollments per capita in the world."
In South Africa, roughly 7 million voiceprints have been collected by the country's Social Security Agency, in part to verify that those claiming pensions are still alive.
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