Voice-to-text service SpinVox has been criticised following a report and a blog post from BBC Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones. He’s been told that most of the company’s messages aren’t converted by technology but by call centre staff.
Now, to many people in the mobile industry, this isn’t much of a surprise. To start with, SpinVox – now five years old - has never explicitly said that it uses computers to convert speech. It’s just been very careful – some would say deceptively so - with the words it used. Words that were clever enough to fool Stephen Fry, who last year wrote of “the sheer brilliance of SpinVox”. Even then, comments on his blog were quick to set him right. “The reality is that every single one of your voicemails is listened to by an operator” read one response - and later that year excerpts from a SpinVox cell centre website were also posted online.
But what’s causing particular concern today is the apparent use of call centres in Egypt, South Africa and the Philippines, because the company is reported to have told the UK Data Protection Register that it doesn’t transfer information outside Europe.
And the publicity has led to other people looking for problems… and finding them. For example, TechCrunch (fresh from its Twitter revelations) appears to have found a SpinVox employee who’s posted a customer voicemail recording on Facebook.