IFlyTek is portrayed in the Chinese media both as a technology innovator and as an ally of the government. Last year iFlyTek helped prevent the loss of about $75 million in telecommunications fraud by helping the police target scammers, according to The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid controlled by the Communist Party. Its article quotes a Chinese security official as saying collecting voice patterns is like taking fingerprints or recording people with closed-circuit television cameras, meaning the practice does not violate their privacy.
“We work with the Ministry of Public Security to pin down the criminals,” said Liu Junfeng, the general manager of the company’s automotive business, at a conference in September.
Where iFlyTek gets its data is not clear. But one of its owners is China Mobile, the state-controlled cellular network giant, which has more than 800 million subscribers. IFlyTek preloads its products on millions of China Mobile phones and runs the hotline service for China Mobile, which did not respond to a request for comment…
“The Chinese government has been collecting the voice patterns of tens of thousands of people with little transparency about the program or laws regulating who can be targeted or how that information is going to be used,” Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch’s China director, wrote in a report in October.
In its home province of Anhui, iFlyTek has assembled a database of 70,000 voice patterns, according to the report, which also said that the police had begun collecting records of voice patterns as they would fingerprints. The report cited as one example three women suspected of being sex workers whose voices were registered in a database, it said, in part because they had been arrested in Anhui.
The local Chinese media has also reported about a new plan in Anhui to scan voice calls automatically for the voice-prints of wanted criminals, and alert the police if they are detected….source
Delphi, a major American auto supplier, offers iFlyTek’s technology to carmakers in China, while Volkswagen plans to build the Chinese company’s speech recognition technology into many of its cars in China next year…
Through a third-party supplier, a few hundred thousand of the four million cars that the Volkswagen Group sells in China annually will be equipped next year with iFlyTek voice recognition technology, said Christoph Ludewig, a spokesman for the German automaker. Volkswagen said it requires that any data gathered from drivers is kept anonymous.