With every new technological advancement, there’s always someone poking at it from behind the computer screen, trying to find a vulnerability. This isn’t new (Antheus biometric data breach, Robinhood data security incident, anyone?), but it is something that the average consumer doesn’t think about enough.
One of the biggest blind spots most of us have is surrounding the privacy of our data with voice assistants like Siri or Alexa. Technologies like speech-to-text software and conversational artificial intelligence (AI) are steadily increasing in popularity, and this means we need to start considering the privacy implications more seriously.
Why Does Text-to-Speech Matter, Anyway?
Text-to-speech tools and chatbots are quickly becoming everyday technologies for businesses. Chatbots are helping us analyze data, solve tech problems and speed up recruitment processes. In fact, we’re rapidly approaching a tipping point when businesses that don’t integrate these types of AI solutions will be considered sorely out-of-touch.
For example, one of the most common learning disabilities is dyslexia. This, combined with the fact that nearly 2.2 billion people worldwide have vision impairments, makes text-to-speech and conversational AI essential.
Here’s the Big Privacy Problem With Siri and Alexa (and Other Voice Assistants)
In most cases, the technology we’re relying on needs access to cloud servers and the internet at large. Customers’ data is being kept on third-party servers alongside millions of other people globally. For these AI to effectively perform tasks, there must be massive amounts of data stored on these servers.
For businesses, the risks that go along with the sheer amount of data being stored are massive. There are frequent news stories about data breaches and hackers using deepfake technology to scam corporations out of millions. IBM estimates that these types of hacks cost companies roughly $3.86m per instance. On top of the financial risk, data breaches also seriously impact consumer trust.
Companies are already working on ways to keep stored text-to-speech and voice-related data secure. Businesses are working on best practices guides around voice data storage, and many companies are pushing regulatory bodies to include text-to-speech and conversational AI data in their security requirements. Still, corporations alike need to keep data security in mind next time they interact with a chatbot.
Conversational AI Isn’t Going Away, So Let’s Talk Solutions
Conversational AI (like chatbots and voice assistants) is an overall positive step into a digital future. For example, companies use conversational AI tools to help people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder improve their conversational skills. In addition, there are plenty of storiesacross the web about how Alexa, Siri and similar technologies have helped people with a wide range of disabilities live happier, fuller lives.
Conversational AI is all about understanding intent, which means collecting conversational data to “get better at the job.” This is a two-edged sword. On one side, we want a better, faster and smarter experience. The tradeoff is that computers have virtually limitless memories via cloud servers, so they don’t “forget” information unless they are told to.
While data collection isn’t generally a harmful or exploitative thing, it’s still important to remember that every bit of data, no matter how small, builds a more detailed snapshot of you and your life and that picture sticks around forever.
The issue is not with the technology itself. It has vast potential in personal and corporate settings. We have to make sure that these solutions work behind the scenes to limit our data vulnerability.
One potential solution is for businesses to use private servers with self-hosted AI voice technology. This solves the issue of outside security by eliminating the need for cloud access, and it still allows companies to utilize a full range of AI services. Other security measures such as anti-spoofing tech and multi-factor authentication are also important steps to take for keeping data secure.
Even with these solutions, it’s still crucial for businesses to arm themselves with knowledge. Employees should read about how data collection works and understand how to delete stored information when it’s no longer needed.
What’s in Store for the Future
Conversational AI and text-to-speech tech are the future. It won’t be long before we’re having “normal” conversations with Alexa or chatting with a virtual assistant who helps us pull up files and sort documents at work.
We’re steadily moving toward a faster, more convenient digital future, and that’s a good thing. In the meantime, corporations and consumers alike need to remember to keep privacy at the forefront of the discussion.