Should Alexa read our moods?

In this case, Dr. Turow is concerned that voice technologies, including Apple’s Alexa and Siri, will transform from digital butlers to fortune-tellers using the sound of our voices to resolve intimate details like our moods, desires, and conditions. medical. In theory, they could one day be used by the police to determine who should be arrested or by the banks to say who is worthy of a mortgage.

“Using the human body to discriminate between people is something we shouldn’t do,” he said.

Some business environments, such as call centers, are already doing this. If computers assess that you sound angry over the phone, they may direct you to operators who specialize in calming people down. Spotify has also unveiled a patent on technology to recommend songs based on voice cues about the speaker’s emotions, age, or gender. Amazon has said that its Halo health tracking service and bracelet will analyze “the energy and positivity in a customer’s voice” to drive people to improve communications and relationships.

Dr Turow said he did not want to stop the potentially useful uses of voice profiles, for example, to screen people for serious health conditions, including Covid-19. But there is very little benefit to us, he said, if computers use inferences from our speech to sell us dish detergent.

“We have to ban voice profiling for marketing purposes,” Dr. Turow told me. “There is no use for the public. We are creating another set of data that people have no idea how it is being used. “

Dr. Turow is tapping into a debate on how to deal with technology that could have huge benefits, but also downsides that we may not see coming. Should the government try to impose rules and regulations on powerful technology before it is in widespread use, like what is happening in Europe, or leave it for the most part alone unless something bad happens?

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