Voice Profiling Is Coming. Are You Ready?
Voice Profiling Is Coming. Are You Ready?
If you ever order a product by phone, or call customer service, you might undergo voice profiling.
On a sales or customer service call, you may have heard the following message: “This call may be recorded for training and quality control.
Did you think your hosts were monitoring only the sales agent or CSR? Hah! Think again. You, too, can provide a ripe target for voice profiling. For example, artificial intelligence (A I) or machine learning can enable analysis of voice communication for precisely targeted advertising and robotic assistance. Many of us use ‘smart’ phones and appliances, voice-activated phones, and intelligent in-car displays. These amass enormous troves of data for corporate computers to digest.
With this information, marketers can identify individuals. But this is hardly the beginning. With this data, marketers can identify individuals. They can identify personalities. They can identify emotional states. And they can even identify physical traits.
Standard digital marketing lacks something. Most digital methods for creating unique customer profiles are imprecise. The information could be out of date. Multiple users of a single device can provide a confusing composite profile. Some people even lie on their online survey forms. (We hope you were sitting down when you read that last sentence. You’re shocked, aren’t you?)
Voice analysis, by contrast, renders deception about personality or emotion almost impossible.
How does voice profiling work?
What, then, will your friendly neighborhood corporate marketer do with this information? Well, let’s look at a few examples. Suppose you call an electronics firm to ask about smart phones or TV sets. Suppose, also, that the machine learning app identifies you as talkative and friendly. It will then steer you to an agent- or a bot- especially adept at selling the most expensive goods to ‘talkative and friendly’ callers. If, on the other hand, the app identifies you as taciturn and reserved, it will direct you to a different agent.
Voice data could also bring more precisely targeted advertising. Voice analysis apps could identify your moods and even your physical health. In that case, you might might the ads nearly irresistible.
Amazon leads the way
Amazon has taken especially strong interest in voice profiling. The firm recently patented a method enabling an Alexa device to discern by irregularities in a woman’s speech that she was suffering a cold. Alexa then asked if she wanted chicken soup. She said no. The device then offered cough drops with one-hour delivery.
With another Amazon app, an in-store agent could decode a shopper’s subconscious reactions to various products. The shopper’s voice could reveal far more about his personality and interests than his words would.
Is this the worst of it?
As troubling as these possibilities may be, they’re not the worst of it. Far more sinister applications could be in the offing. They could easily become tools for abuse.
For example, banks could refuse loans if voice data tells them certain applicants present bad risks. A restaurant could deny reservations to a caller who sounds low in social status, or likely to demand too much. Twitter and Facebook could block or delete posts from people whose voices reveal doubt or opposition to their pet narratives. And if political campaigns get their hands on such data, some are almost certain to abuse it.
Even this is hardly the worst of it. We haven’t even mentioned how governments could abuse voice data. For example, voice profiling could identify a regime’s opponents and critics, and could betray their current locations. Masks and other attempts at disguise could prove futile if investigators can tap voice data. And a determined regime could even figure out how to disrupt communications in real time.
What can we do?
What you’ve read here so far might seem to indicate that our situation is hopeless. It’s not, though. America has faced far more daunting challenges in the past, and we’ve prevailed. All we need is vigilance and the will to resist manipulation and unconstitutional surveillance. Contact your public officials to demand privacy protection, and take extra precautions in speaking before Alexa or Siri.
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