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The common approaches to feature extraction in speech processing are generative and parametric although they are highly sensitive to violations of their model assumptions. Here, we advocate the non-parametric Information Bottleneck (IB). IB is an information theoretic approach that extends minimal sufficient statistics. However, unlike minimal sufficient statistics which does not allow any relevant data loss, IB method enables a principled tradeoff between compactness and the amount of target-related information. IB's ability to improve a broad range of recognition tasks is illustrated for model dimension reduction tasks for speaker recognition and model clustering for age-group verification.