Transcription: A Matter of National Security

Transcription: A Matter of National Security

Transcription is important. How important? So important that it’s a matter of national security.

True, for your particular endeavor U.S. national security may not be at stake, but the viability of your business, your organization, your academic research, and/or your publication may be at stake. So many crucial things are said verbally – and recorded electronically – that get lost in the ether, only because no one had the time to go through the vast volumes of audio after the fact. It’s impossible for one or a few people to sit down and listen through the verbiage. No one has that kind of time.

The U.S. National Security Agency is well aware of that. That’s why, according to top-secret documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the NSA uses speech recognition technology to create transcripts of phone calls that can be easily searched and stored. According to The Intercept,

Spying on international telephone calls has always been a staple of NSA surveillance, but the requirement that an actual person do the listening meant it was effectively limited to a tiny percentage of the total traffic. By leveraging advances in automated speech recognition, the NSA has entered the era of bulk listening.

To sift through and analyze the massive amounts of voice communications collected by the NSA, “human listening was clearly not going to be the solution,” wrote The Intercept. “There weren’t enough ears,” an NSA whistleblower told the publication.

The speech recognition technology used by the NSA certainly has limitations. Without a doubt, it doesn’t transcribe with 100 percent accuracy. They’re probably lucky if they get 90 percent accuracy. And with speech recognition technology, you just get one large block of text, with no paragraphs, speaker labels, and usually no periods where sentences are supposed to end. Instead, it’s just one gigantic run-on sentence. So for their important stuff, I’m sure the NSA uses human transcriptionists, instead of speech recognition software.

We offer speech recognition services, but few folks take advantage of it due to the pitfalls thereof mentioned above. For your important stuff, you need human transcriptionists. At least for the NSA, it’s a matter of national security.

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