SpinVox Under Fire
- Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
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Voice-to-text company SpinVox is under fire, with a report from the BBC claiming that rather than using advanced speech recognition software to to convert voice messages into text messages, in actual fact, the vast majority of messages are converted by human beings, namely staff in call centres in South Africa and the Philippines. The BBC report says that SpinVox has declined to comment on how many messages are converted in this manner, instead issuing a statement which says:
Speech algorithms do not learn without human intervention and all speech systems require humans for learning – SpinVox does this in real-timeThe actual proportion of messages automatically converted is highly confidential and sensitive data.
According to SpinVox, when necessary, parts of messages can be sent to what they describe as a conversion expert, with the part of the message anonymised so that there is no way of tracking back to a particular number or person.
But the BBC says it has spoken to someone who worked for SpinVox at a call centre in Egypt, who claims that he and his colleagues did handle live messages, and that SpinVox computers only played a small part in transcribing them. It also reports that other call centre staff in South Africa and the Philippines have discussed on blogs how they have also transcribed calls for SpinVox, and even says it has has confirmation from a source at the company that the vast majority of messages are in fact converted into text by staff at call centres.
The BBC says that the fac that messages appear to have been read by workers outside of the European Union raises questions about the firm's data protection policy, since the firm's entry on the UK Data Protection Register says it does not transfer anything outside the European Economic Area.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has issued a statement pointing out that there is nothing to prevent SpinVox from using people rather than machines to translate messages. The statement adds, however, that it may be helpful if the company is clearer about the likelihood that people will be used to translate messages. The ICO has also contacted SpinVox to ensure that its entry on the data protection register is both accurate and complete, especially with regards to the transfer of personal data outside the European Economic Area.