Preech: A System for Privacy-Preserving Speech Transcription


Shimaa Ahmed, Amrita Roy Chowdhury, Kassem Fawaz, and Parmesh Ramanathan, University of Wisconsin—Madison


New advances in machine learning have made Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) systems practical and more scalable. These systems, however, pose serious privacy threats as speech is a rich source of sensitive acoustic and textual information. Although offline and open-source ASR eliminates the privacy risks, its transcription performance is inferior to that of cloud-based ASR systems, especially for real-world use cases. In this paper, we propose Prεεch, an end-to-end speech transcription system which lies at an intermediate point in the privacy-utility spectrum. It protects the acoustic features of the speakers’ voices and protects the privacy of the textual content at an improved performance relative to offline ASR. Additionally, Prεεch provides several control knobs to allow customizable utility-usability-privacy trade-off. It relies on cloud-based services to transcribe a speech file after applying a series of privacy-preserving operations on the user’s side. We perform a comprehensive evaluation of Prεεch, using diverse real-world datasets, that demonstrates its effectiveness. Prεεch provides transcription at a 2% to 32.25% (mean 17.34%) relative improvement in word error rate over Deep Speech, while fully obfuscating the speakers' voice biometrics and allowing only a differentially private view of the textual content.

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@inproceedings {255304,
author = {Shimaa Ahmed and Amrita Roy Chowdhury and Kassem Fawaz and Parmesh Ramanathan},
title = {Preech: A System for {Privacy-Preserving} Speech Transcription},
booktitle = {29th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 20)},
year = {2020},
isbn = {978-1-939133-17-5},
pages = {2703--2720},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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