Marketers are on the verge of using AI-powered technology to make decisions about who you are and what you want – based purely on the sound of your voice. Picture: Ross D. Franklin, AP.
Marketers are on the verge of using AI-powered technology to make decisions about who you are and what you want – based purely on the sound of your voice. Picture: Ross D. Franklin, AP.

Beware: marketers want your voice for profiling

By Wesley Diphoko Time of article published May 16, 2021

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MARKETERS are on the verge of using AI-powered technology to make decisions about who you are and what you want – based purely on the sound of your voice.

When Joseph Turow was researching his forthcoming book, The Voice Catchers: How marketers listen in to exploit your feelings, your privacy, and your wallet (expected to be released on Tuesday), he went through more than 1 000 trade magazine and news articles on the companies connected to various forms of voice profiling. He examined hundreds of pages of US and EU laws applying to biometric surveillance.

He analysed dozens of patents. It soon became clear to him that, as a society, we’re in the early stages of a voice-profiling revolution that companies see as integral to the future of marketing.

Thanks to the public’s embrace of smart speakers, intelligent car displays, and voice-responsive phones – along with the rise of voice intelligence in call centres, marketers say they are on the verge of being able to use AI-assisted vocal analysis technology to achieve unprecedented insights into shoppers’ identities and inclinations. In doing so, they believe they’ll be able to circumvent the errors and fraud associated with traditional targeted advertising.

Not only can people be profiled by their speech patterns, but they can also

be assessed by the sound of their voices which, some researchers say, is unique and can reveal their feelings, personalities and even physical characteristics.

Top marketing executives interviewed by Turow said they expected their customer interactions to include voice profiling within a decade or so. Part of what attracts them to the new technology is a belief that the digital system of creating unique customer profiles – and then targeting them with personalised messages, offers and ads – has major drawbacks.

A simmering worry among internet advertisers, one that burst into the open during the 2010s, is that customer data often isn’t up to date, profiles may be based on multiple users of a device, names can be confused and people lie.

Advertisers are also uneasy about ad blocking and click fraud, which happens when a site or app uses bots or low-paid workers to click on ads placed there, so that the advertisers have to pay up. These are all barriers to understanding individual shoppers.

Voice analysis, on the other hand, is seen as a solution that makes it nearly impossible for people to hide their feelings or evade their identities.

Wesley Diphoko is the editor of BizTech.

[email protected]

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

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