On January 28, 2020, the US Federal Trade Commission will hold a public workshop on voice cloning technologies. As the federal agency charged with protecting consumers from fraudulent and deceptive marketing practices, the FTC workshop will review the potential misuse of voice cloning technologies as well as its benefits.  The workshop will include three panel discussions focused on the pros and cons of voice cloning, the ethics of voice cloning, and authentication, detection, and mitigation issues.

From a consumer protection perspective, the FTC is keen on ensuring that voice-cloning technology does not hand scammers an easy way to perpetrate scams. For instance, giving fake voice commands to access smartphones, mimicking the voices of relatives in distress (“I’m in the hospital, Grandpa; you need to wire me money now”), or by giving phony instructions (“This is Deborah. Transfer my savings account to ____”).  Advertising and marketing abuse will also be examined. For example, voice-cloned celebrity voices could be used in fake endorsements.  From a pro-competition perspective, the FTC is interested in ways to promote technological developments and fair competition.

The FTC Workshop will include a demonstration of voice cloning as well as discussions by academics, researchers, and law enforcement personnel, who will explore the practical and legal implications of this technology.  The Workshop will commence with remarks for FTC Commissioner Raul Chopra and will close with comments from Lois Greisman, Associate Director of the FTC’s Division of Marketing Practices.

The workshop will be held on January 28, 2020, at 12:30 p.m., at the FTC’s Constitution Center conference facility, at 400 7th Street, S.W., in Washington, DC, and will be webcast from a link that will be posted on the FTC’s website prior to the event.  For more information, click here.

From an intellectual property and technology perspective, this workshop promises to mesh multiple topics of interest, including patent protection, privacy, consumer protection and personality rights in one’s speech.  The combination of artificial intelligence and artificial voice may lead to new frontiers in scamming and fraud – yet as this workshop indicates, the FTC will be right on the voice print trail of such scam artists.