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As text-to-speech AI has improved, so has voice cloning technology. The prospects could be promising, but from the FTC’s perspective, voice cloning also presents serious consumer protection concerns. The FTC is committed to using a wide range of tools to prevent harm to the public. That’s the reason for the just-announced Voice Cloning Challenge.

While voice cloning technology holds out hope for some people – for example, those who have lost their voices to accident or illness – the FTC has called attention to the ways that fraudsters are adding AI to their arsenal of artifice. You’ve probably heard about family emergency scams where a person gets a call supposedly from a panicked relative who’s been jailed or hospitalized and needs money immediately. Until recently, scammers had to come up with excuses for why the voice might not sound quite right. But enter artificial intelligence and the crook on the other end could use voice cloning technology to impersonate the family member.

This will be fifth challenge the FTC has sponsored under the America Competes Act, which allows agencies to create challenges to promote technology development and innovation. For example, other challenges spurred the creation of new tools to reduce illegal robocalls and address security vulnerabilities related to Internet of Things devices. Submit the best approach to protect people from the harms caused by the misuse of AI-enabled voice cloning – everything from imposter fraud to the misappropriation of someone’s voice to create music. The top prize for the Voice Cloning Challenge is $25,000. Read the FTC Voice Cloning Challenge page for more information about participating.

We’ll start accepting submissions on January 2, 2024. But now is the time to get the genius gears cranking to consider potential solutions at various intervention points, including:

  • Prevention or authentication, including limiting the use of voice cloning software to authorized users;
  • Detection and monitoring to alert consumers if their voice has been cloned without their knowledge or if they’re speaking to a cloned voice, and/or to block phone calls using cloned voices; and
  • Evaluation resources, systems, or tools that help consumers or businesses check if audio clips contain cloned voices.

Those are just a few possibilities, but to quote Thomas Edison, “There’s a way to do it better. Now find it.”



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