Germany develops voice detection software for asylum seekers

A speech analysis technology has been developed by the German government which will help determine asylum seekers' countries of origin as reports from Die Welt has it. According to the report, in a period of two weeks, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) will begin testing the software with an eye toward deploying it more widely come 2018.


Belief is that the software will be able to analyze and identify the dialects of people seeking asylum in Germany, based on recorded speech samples. The information gotten could then be used as one of several "indicators" that migration officers consider when reviewing asylum applications. The technology is based on voice authentication software used by banks and insurance companies, and will be modified to analyze dialects, according to Die Welt .

According to BAMF previous estimates, around 60 percent of people who sought asylum in 2016 did not have identification papers upon arriving Germany. In February, the German Interior Ministry presented a draft law that would allow migration officers to seize smartphone and laptop data to help determine the identity of asylum seekers, this move raised concerns among some privacy advocates.
Germany has been using linguistic experts to analyze dialects and determine countries of origin since 1998, according to Deutsche Welle. But experts have expressed doubts over whether computers would be able to reliably perform such analysis.

Getting Professional views on the issue, a computer scientist at the University of Copenhagen, Dirk Hovy, tells Die Welt that BAMF's system would need to incorporate speech data that is demographically representative of asylum seekers, which would involve the creation of a broad database. "Creating a perfect dataset is virtually impossible," Hovy said, "because language is constantly changing."

Monika Schmid, a linguistics professor at the University of Essex, tells Deutsche Welle that speech analysts "must have a solid background in linguistic analysis and be able to take into account a wide range of factors" when determining someone's country of origin, including changes in the ways they speak around different people.
"I don't see how automated software can distinguish whether a person uses a certain word or pronounces it in a particular way because this is part of their own repertoire or because they were primed to do so by the interviewer or interpreter," Schmid told Deutsche Welle.

By Danson Bassey

Will Uvoh


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