Your Voice Is Worth More

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My wife sent me a recent ABC News Article about new privacy concerns around voice-first devices.

You can check out the article here…

The main concern was about companies using voice data in a discriminatory fashion unintended by the caller / user. The examples they gave were companies using voice health data to raise insurance rates or a restaurant denying a reservation based on a person’s personal details.

However, they used voice-first devices as a scapegoat, which is probably the worst example to use. The audio collected by these devices remains the treasure of Amazon and Google for their dastardly intents, not the third party applications connected to the device. As an Alexa Skills developer, for example, you can’t get audio, emotion, or identifying information. You get intents and entities. It’s designed for exactly this way.

All of the audio captured by these devices and through other services is typically available through some buried in settings but you can see everything that is kept. That said, discarded information might still be available.

I don’t want to sound like an apologist for the large tech companies, but the way they use your data isn’t the most obvious path. It’s not through Echos eavesdropping. However, when the predictions they make based on other activities or campaigns that might be running are similar to what you’ve discussed in the presence of their devices, everyone freaks out. Rightfully.

The real issue with the use of voice is when it’s targeted towards the individual to manipulate them in ways that they hadn’t desired. Yes, being denied insurance because you were on the phone with an agent and coughed and an AI system caught the cough and flagged it seems sketchy and invasive. Yes, predicting your ethnicity and biasing an offering based on this is wrong.

We’re going to see many other ethical issues around voice and data creep up over the next decade as new tools to extract information become available. As Walter White said, “if you don’t know who I am, then maybe your best course is to tread lightly.” Same goes for use of voice derived information.



Independent daily thoughts on all things future, voice technologies and AI. More at

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Leor Grebler

Independent daily thoughts on all things future, voice technologies and AI. More at