New Report from Hypervoice Consortium: How Voice and Privacy Will Transform the Tech Industry

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Research indicates that emergent voice technology presents peril while creating the necessary conditions for a privacy revolution.

And here lies the seeds of the privacy revolution,” said Fitzsimmons. “Voice isn’t simply data. Voice contains identity. You can strip all the metadata off a voice file and still know it’s me talking. Voice is self-identifying data.

The seeds of the future are found in the unlikely hero of the human voice. A new report from the Hypervoice Consortium on the future of personal communications found that emerging technology is moving quickly towards adopting the human voice as the core interface. And with this shift, new privacy concerns emerge. The report’s release coincides with Data Privacy Day, sponsored by the National Cyber Security Alliance.

Throughout 2014, the Hypervoice Consortium interviewed technology visionaries, scholars and engineers in the trenches to assemble a possible picture of what communications will look like in 2025.

The Hypervoice Consortium’s research indicates that people view voice differently than general data. Whereas general data is abstract, voice is deeply personal. “The idea of voice being recorded and processed without fully informed consent elicited some of the most consistent and impassioned negative feedback,” said Kelly Fitzsimmons, co-founder of Hypervoice Consortium. “And yet, that is precisely what is happening with voice today.”

Fitzsimmons adds, “Contrary to what most pundits believe, privacy is far from dead. What we have experienced to date is the presentation of a binary choice of ‘use our product and surrender your data’ or not. To date, harried people have been willing to make this trade mostly for convenience sake, and because the impact of the trade is largely abstract and invisible to them.”

“People feel like their conversations with Siri and other personal assistants are private and ephemeral,” said Martin Geddes, co-founder of the Hypervoice Consortium and a leading telecom expert. “And yet, these are recorded conversations. What is done with those conversations once captured is unclear to users. What is clear is that people have lost sovereignty over their voice.”

“And here lies the seeds of the privacy revolution,” said Fitzsimmons. “Voice isn’t simply data. Voice contains identity. You can strip all the metadata off a voice file and still know it’s me talking. Voice is self-identifying data.”

The report calls out new opportunities too. Since the vast majority of voice conversations are not recorded today, the Hypervoice Consortium concludes that this is an addressable problem. By raising awareness of how smartphones and sensors work, people can bring their concerns to the marketplace and begin demanding rights as to how their voices are treated. New players in the voice space, such as Talko, are allowing users the ability to delete their voices as a value-added benefit. Architecture choices like this, the report concludes, will likely become standard features for future voice products.

“The technology industry’s current trend towards data obesity – collect it all and figure out how to monetize it later – doesn’t work well with voice,” said Geddes. “We need technology that works for us -- the humans -- not against us. Mighty empires will be lost by those who fail to see the value in the real human need for privacy.”

Other key findings in the report included:

  • Sensors are becoming ubiquitous, but still require humans to make sense of their signals. Future smart sensors will be able to make decisions on behalf of the humans they serve.
  • We are moving away from the mouse and keyboard as our primary interface to voice. Within ten years, voice will become the primary input/output with text/gesture being secondary.
  • Technology design will move beyond user delight as the benchmark for a great application to human freedom where people have sovereignty over their voice and data.
  • Machines are finally making sense of human audio data, joining us in the conversation. Speech recognition and sentiment analysis are becoming mature technologies.
  • Voice is not part of messaging, but rather a sensor technology.

About Hypervoice Consortium: The Hypervoice Consortium’s mission is to bring awareness to the importance of the emerging communications ecosystem and serve as the official forum for standards, capabilities and applications. Our purpose is to research the future of communication and advocate passionately for humankind's best interests. Learn more at http://www.hypervoice.org/ or follow the conversation on Twitter with #VoiceourFuture. Hypervoice(TM) is registered trademark of the Hypervoice Consortium LLC.

Contact: kvenne(at)rogerslemonds(dot)com                    
Rogers, LeMonds & Associates
414-406-1476

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Kate Venne
Rogers, LeMonds & Associates
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since: 09/2012
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