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Concern voiced at 'Magic Call' service
By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-02-28 05:44

NANJING: A "Magic Call" service that enables speakers to change their voice has attracted thousands of customers in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province, since its launch earlier this year.

The scheme by Nanjing Telecom Company Limited costs 6 yuan (75 US cents) per month, and users can use different numbered keys on their telephone to change their voice while speaking.

It features eight types of voices of different aged men and women.

According to Sheng Fang, a secretary at Nanjing Telecom's general office, more than 6,300 customers have registered to the service since it began on January 1, and the number has been increasing steadily as more customers begin to learn about it.

Subscribers claim the service plays a positive role in protecting people's privacy if they want to tell things in confidence to public hotlines.

But among the eight voices is "midnight blackmail," which some listeners claim sounds disturbing.

Legal experts have raised concern at the ability for people to change their voices.

"By using this service, the verbal identification process in our case investigations will become greatly challenged. It will brings serious problems to our work," said Liu Zhengcao, a lawyer from the Nanjing-based Contemporary Security Law Firm.

But Sheng, from Nanjing Telecom, said that as all the users' information has been recorded in the company's system, including the times calls are made, it would not pose any security problems.

The majority of the users are trendy youngsters, said Sheng.

"It is so funny, the receiver spends a long time guessing who the speaker is," said He Sha, a 23-year-old university student in Nanjing who recently subscribed to the service.

"You can pretend to be someone else to make fun of them."

But her mother is not so pleased with the service.

She said:"When I called my daughter last week, a middle-aged sounding man answered the phone. Although I was told later by my daughter what it actually was, I really don't want this kind of joke to happen to me again."

Similar services have also reportedly been set up by telecom operators in several major provinces and municipalities in the country, including Beijing and Jilin Province.

They charge either by taking in monthly subscription fees or calls per minute.

"The new service is expected to bring big profits to those communication operators. But as it encounters questions by society over recognition problems and its target customers are really limited, its future market still remains unclear," according to a market analyst.

(China Daily 02/28/2006 page3)

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