What is Voice Cloning
Voice cloning lets anyone create a synthetic copy of someone else’s voice, using artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning.
Voice cloning can be good. It has been used to effectively restore someone’s lost voice from illness. And it’s been used to create a lifelike personalized digital assistant.
The problem is that voice cloning can also be bad. It can threaten privacy, security, and trust. We’re already seeing malicious actors use it to impersonate, deceive, or defraud unsuspecting victims. So far, voice cloning has often been applied to famous people, like the president, but any of us can suffer from having our voice cloned.
In this blog post, we explain how voice cloning works, and we talk about how to protect your voice from being cloned without your consent.
How Voice Cloning Works
Voice cloning is based on a type of AI called generative adversarial networks (GANs). GANs consist of two competing neural networks: a generator and a discriminator. The generator creates realistic audio outputs, based on a voice sample. It essentially analyzes the voice data and extracts various features, such as pitch, tone, accent, and emotion. It then uses these features to synthesize new speech. The discriminator tries to distinguish between the real and the generated outputs, and provides feedback to the generator to improve its performance. The generator and the discriminator learn from each other, until the generator ultimately produces outputs that effectively match the real ones.
It used to be that, to clone a voice, the generator needed several hours of high quality voice data from the target speaker. No longer. It’s possible to get a reasonably high quality audio clone with as little as 3 seconds of audio data. And it’s very easy to get a high quality recording with 10 seconds or more. That means if there exists as little as 3 seconds of audio with your voice, you are at risk of being cloned.
What Are the Risks and Harms of Voice Cloning
Once your voice is cloned, it can be used to steal your identity. Scammers can potentially use it to access your personal information, such as bank accounts, credit cards, or social security numbers. For example, a scammer using a cloned voice can call your bank, pretend to be you, and request a password reset, a money transfer, or a verification code.
Scammers can also use it to impersonate little old you. That is, they can trick someone who knows and trusts you, like a family member, a friend, or a colleague. For example, a scammer can use your voice to call a victim and claim to be in an emergency situation, such as being kidnapped, arrested, or hospitalized, and ask for a ransom, a bail, or a donation.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Voice from Cloning
How do you protect your voice from being cloned without your consent?
The key is simple. Make sure your voice is not in the public domain. If you’re a celebrity or a CEO or an influencer, you’re somewhat out of luck. But if you’re not, you can can take the following steps:
- Be really careful when sharing your voice online. Try not to post voice recordings or videos that contain your voice on public platforms, such as social media, podcasts, or blogs, and adjust your privacy settings to limit the access to your voice data. Don’t give voice samples to unknown or untrusted sources, such as apps, websites, or surveys, and read their terms and conditions and privacy policies before agreeing to anything.
- Make sure you don’t record a voicemail greeting in your own voice. It’s crazy but that’s a huge security hole. A clever scammer need only call your number, get sent to voicemail, and grab your greeting. Then, they can clone your voice with easily available tools. As importantly, they then have it associated with your phone number! That’s the worst case scenario, especially if they spoof your number and voice and call your family and friends. The YouMail voicemail app is the best solution to this problem. YouMail provides a smart greeting, which greets people by name and tells them who they called. But while it sounds good, it’s not your voice, reducing your risk of having your voice cloned.
Voice cloning is a powerful and innovative technology with many positive and beneficial applications. Unfortunately, it also poses serious and significant threats to privacy, security, and trust. But by following these steps, you can protect your voice from being cloned without your consent.