FutureWatch: Preventing Microphones from Capturing a Target Speaker’s Voice

Over the decades, there have been many attempts at preventing electronic eavesdropping. The most popular methods employ “white noise” sound masking and ultrasonic jamming. These techniques are aimed at nullifying microphones. While these techniques have their pros and cons, they all share one trait. They target all sounds to all microphones in the area. Not helpful if only one person desires privacy while allowing others to continue communicating using their smartphones, Internet-of Things devices, or hearing aids. 

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Michigan State University is working on a solution… 

We propose NEC (Neural Enhanced Cancellation), a defense mechanism, which prevents unauthorized microphones from capturing a target speaker’s voice. Compared with the existing scrambling-based audio cancellation approaches, NEC can selectively remove a target speaker’s voice from a mixed speech without causing interference to others. …The results show that NEC effectively mutes the target speaker at a microphone without interfering with other users’ normal conversations. 

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