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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

Should Alexa Read Our Moods?


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Professor Joseph Turow

Professor Joseph Turow is worried that voice technologies such as Alexa and Apple's Siri will morph from digital butlers into diviners that use the sound of our voices to work out intimate details like our moods, desires, and medical conditions.

Joseph Turow, Ph.D., is Robert Lewis Shayon Professor of Media Systems & Industries at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.

Joseph Turow is convinced that companies should be barred from analyzing what people say and how they sound to recommend products or personalize advertising messages. He arrived at that conclusion while researching technologies such as Amazon's Alexa for his new book, "The Voice Catchers."

Turow's suggestion is notable partly because the profiling of people based on their voices isn't widespread. Or, it isn't yet. But he is encouraging policymakers and the public to be careful and considerate about using a powerful technology before it is used for consequential decisions.

After years of researching Americans' evolving attitudes about society's digital jet streams of personal data, Turow said that some uses of technology had so much risk for so little upside that they should be stopped before they got big.

From The New York Times
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