2018/11/15: At the beginning of October, Amazon was quietly issued a patent that would allow its virtual assistant Alexa to decipher a user’s physical characteristics and emotional state based on their voice. Characteristics, or “voice features,” like language accent, ethnic origin, emotion, gender, age, and background noise would be immediately extracted and tagged to the user’s data file to help deliver more targeted advertising.
The algorithm would also consider a customer’s physical location — based on their IP address, primary shipping address, and browser settings — to help determine their accent. Should Amazon’s patent become a reality, or if accent detection is already possible, it would introduce questions of surveillance and privacy violations, as well as possible discriminatory advertising, experts said.
Like facial recognition, voice analysis underlines how existing laws and privacy safeguards simply aren’t capable of protecting users from new categories of data collection — or government spying, for that matter. Unlike facial recognition, voice analysis relies not on cameras in public spaces, but microphones inside smart speakers in our homes. It also raises its own thorny issues around advertising that targets or excludes certain groups of people based on derived characteristics like nationality, native language, and so on.
voice-based accent detection can determine a person’s ethnic background, it opens up a new category of information that is incredibly interesting to the government.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, makes it possible for the government to covertly demand such data.
2018/10/09: In a world where so much is now controlled by so few — there are five big book publishers left, five Hollywood studios, five large health insurers, four phone providers and four cable companies — and this summer AT&T bought Time Warner — Amazon’s reach is terrifying.
Its ostensible search for the next city to house its second headquarters has become “the Olympics on steroids,” Galloway says, with state and local governments promising tax breaks that would starve funding for schools, police and fire departments. We have a new national holiday, Amazon Prime Day. Alexa and Echo, Amazon’s cloud-based voice-operated systems, sit in an estimated 40 million homes and spy on us, reporting our moods, tastes, wants, needs and fears back to HQ.
Yet we don’t fear Alexa.
Bezos has even greater ambitions.
They say that news is what happens to a writer on his way to the bathroom and I've recently discovered something fascinating. Alexa - and, to a degree, Siri and Google's OK Google solution - have become indispensable additions to our home. The kids tell Alexa to turn on the