In the ongoing attempts to find new, novel ways to detect and treat coronavirus, the Israeli Defense Ministry has announced a new program in conjunction with a startup company trying to find if COVID-19 might be detected via voice samples.
The company Vocalis Health, intends to analyze the samples with artificial intelligence to identify a “fingerprint” of the virus. The Israeli Defense Ministry would give them access to a lot more samples to see if this can be improved.
It remains to be seen if such a thing is possible or practical. The hope is to detect respiratory distress, but many diagnosed with the virus have no symptoms at all, or minimal symptoms, and many other diseases might mimic such distress besides.
As the company and ministry pursue if this is at all possible, the inevitable question will be if this program might be misused, as if voice samples are a viable diagnostic tool during the emergency, some in Israel might seek to abuse this for broader collection of such “samples” under the guise of medical expediency. Then the voices could be searched for signs of dissent, for example, or Arabic speakers.
Israel’s use of the virus for surveillance is already raising some concern in media outlets, but there is little sign that Israel doesn’t intend to keep pushing forward.