SpinVox hits back at data-protection criticism

The voice-to-text conversion firm has responded to a BBC report that it uses overseas call centres for transcription, saying human intervention is used only to help its automated systems learn

The voice-to-text conversion firm SpinVox has reacted to reports that it uses overseas call centres, in addition to its automated systems, to translate voice messages into text.

The allegations were made by the BBC on Thursday following an investigation. In a statement published late on Thursday, SpinVox said the claims were "both incorrect and inaccurate".

The BBC investigation found that SpinVox used call centres in the Philippines and South Africa to carry out voice-to-text conversions. This particular claim prompted the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to say it would be in contact with SpinVox about the transfer of personal data outside the European Economic Area.

However, the company said its processes were compliant with data-protection legislation, and any use of people rather than machines was to help its automated systems learn.

"SpinVox takes security extremely seriously and ensuring the protection of data is core to the SpinVox ethos," the company's statement read. "To date, SpinVox has successfully managed millions of conversions, and has no history of breach of security."

The company said it was fully compliant with the Data Protection Act, and that all such information is held within secure hosting facilities located in the UK. It said it had a number of partners, both within and outside the EEA, that provide quality control services for the SpinVox system.

SpinVox said it restricts which of its partners it provides information to. It added that the Data Protection Act allows it to process data outside the European Economic Area, as long as the company complies with certain requirements.

SpinVox denied that the majority of its messages were transcribed in the Philippines and South Africa call centres. It said it had "always been absolutely clear in our communications that humans form an important component of our learning system".

In its statement, SpinVox said: "All speech technology requires training. This requires humans to correct and inspect some audio and text to provide the system with corrections. SpinVox not only does this [in] real-time, but in total security through anonymisation, encryption and randomisation. Other speech systems do this in off-line mode using humans to inspect inputs and outputs; SpinVox does not."

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