Top-secret documents from the Edward Snowden archive, analyzed by journalists Dan Froomkin and Andrew Fishman at The Intercept, show the NSA is increasingly capable of turning telephone conversations of individuals into text to search and analyze. This has significantly enhanced the U.S. government’s ability to listen in on telephone conversations. Specific examples cited in the archive involve phone conversations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Mexico and throughout Latin America.
“Once you have this capability, then the question is: How will it be deployed? Can you temporarily cache all American phone calls, transcribe all the phone calls, and do text searching of the content of the calls?” Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, told The Intercept. “It may not be what they are doing right now, but they’ll be able to do it.”
People may still think of their voice communications over the phone or computer as unsearchable, but the documents released today suggest that many of the privacy concerns of the post-Snowden era that have revolved around monitoring of text communications and “metadata” may apply to the content of voice communications as well. The Snowden documents show that the same kinds of leaps forward seen in commercial speech-to-text products have also been happening in secret at the NSA, fueled by the agency’s singular access to astronomical processing power and its own vast data archives.
It is not known how extensively this capability is used to transcribe or otherwise index and search voice conversations that primarily involve what the NSA terms “U.S. persons.” The NSA did not answer a series of detailed questions about automated speech recognition, even though an NSA “classification guide” that is part of the Snowden archive explicitly states that “The fact that NSA/CSS has created HLT [Human Language Technology] models” for speech-to-text processing as well as gender, language and voice recognition, is “UNCLASSIFIED.”
* Read the full article at The Intercept HERE*