How Using Speech Imitation Software Wrong Could Get a Person Thrown in Jail

There is new speech imitation software being created that is making voice cloning easier to do while sounding more realistic. Users beware: certain uses of speech imitation could get a person thrown in jail.

Speech recognition

Speech Imitation

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Speech recognition is used by millions of Americans every day. Those from older generations who are not savvy on texting may use speech to easily send messages for them. Others frequently use Siri, Alexa, Samsung’s new Bixby, and Google Assistant to ask questions, get directions, order items, and otherwise include these AI assistants to have an active part in their technological lives. These systems are created to recognize a user’s voice and even adjust to better understand voice patterns. After correctly understanding the user’s speech, these AI assistants answer back in their semi-robotic tones, even going as far as to crack a few AI jokes. Now the speech recognition and computer speaking capabilities have gone to an entirely new level by speaking back to us in our own voices.

Speech imitation software

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There have been a few different types of speech imitation software on the market, however none of them compare to what the company Lyrebird is creating. Using AI technology, the Canadian company Lyrebird uses a mere 60 second recording of a person’s voice in order to generate thousands of words and phrases. The troubling difference between these older versions of speech imitation software and those produced by Lyrebird, is the voices produced by Lyrebird sounds more realistic, losing the robotic sounds of other AIs. Already on the heels of Lyrebird are other advanced speech imitation software such as VoCo by Adobe, CandyVoice, and VivoText which plans on letting users choose the level of emotion portrayed through the imitated speech.

Illegal uses of the software

Now that this near flawless speech imitation software is here, imitating the speech of people could give user’s hours of entertainment; however it can also come with legal repercussions as well.

• If speech imitation is used to “expose any other living person to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule” and the person “knowingly communicate[d] to any person orally or in writing any information which he knows to be false” as is stated in Utah Code 76-9-404, the person using the voice cloning technology could end up with a class B misdemeanor charge for criminal defamation.

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•Speech imitation software could be used to commit identity fraud. Many security measures use other means of protection besides a password. This can include iris or fingerprint scanners as well as facial recognition or voice bio-metrics security software. Voice cloning could open doors for criminals to obtain private information about others or to gain access to otherwise secured accounts. According to Utah Code 76-6-1102, identity fraud is either a third or second degree felony, depending on “the value of the credit, goods, services, employment, or any other thing of value”.

• One crime that can arise from speech imitation software is impersonation of an officer. Whether done as a joke to scare a friend or for more malicious intent, pretending to be an officer in person or by voice can result in charges. Utah Code 76-8-512 states those guilty of impersonating an officer will face class B misdemeanor charges, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

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• One of the most malevolent ways speech imitation software could be used is by making it sound like someone admitted to committing a crime. If used this way, the person whose voice was imitated may be the one facing criminal charges. Since voice recordings may be used in court unless there is a lack of predicate, an imitated recording of someone confessing to a crime could mean the difference between whether or not someone goes to jail for a crime they didn’t commit.

• All the criminal charges detailed above can also be accompanied by civil charges brought on by the individuals who were victimized by the speech imitation.

Imitate responsibly

As with any technology, users should always follow the guidelines that would accompany speech imitation software and refrain from using the software illegally. For more information on legal ramifications of speech imitation, contact a criminal defense attorney.