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Optus opens privacy can of worms with programmable voice play

Australian telco company Optus recently introduced a service that transcribes phone call interaction between customers and a call center officer. Seow Yoke Kong, Optus VP of IT, labeled the feature as assisting the Optus employee by taking notes from the phone call, saving them “five minutes” not having to take their own notes. Optus was reportedly looking into assistants like Alexa, Siri, and OK Google. Introducing this function to phone calls would mean that phone conversations would be passively observed by the assistant awaiting keywords.

After it was revealed that Apple employees regularly hear Siri recordings that contain highly sensitive information, Seow was asked if he had any concerns that Optus was building a mass surveillance system in introducing the assistant system to phone calls. Seow responded by saying that they would only apply the capabilities with the customer’s consent. Security researchers remain concerned about the potential for calls to be intercepted with the insertion of bridge functionality. Optus aims to implement the program to improve customer service and plans to keep the preliminary testing of the functions within Australia.

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