How Voice Technology Influences What We Reveal About Ourselves

Information disclosure in the era of voice technology

American Marketing Association
Voice Technology

Melzner explains that “The rapid propagation of voice technology raises a vital question: Do consumers disclose more or less information about themselves when they interact with technology orally rather than manually? To answer this question, one needs to consider that consumers can disclose information about themselves both verbally, that is, by voluntarily providing information through language, as well as nonverbally, that is, by involuntarily revealing information through vocal paralanguage and ambient sound.”

Verbal Disclosure

The researchers also identify mechanisms that arise from fundamental differences between oral and manual communication. They integrate these mechanisms into a verbal disclosure decision-making framework illustrating the complex ways in which communication modality can affect consumers’ likelihood to disclose information. This modality-dependent framework not only provides impetus for future research, but can be used as a tool by marketers to gauge when and how oral versus manual communication may increase or decrease consumers’ likelihood to disclose information verbally.

Nonverbal Disclosure

Oral communication with connected technologies allows one to capture information beyond language in the form of nonverbal disclosures, which are largely absent in manual communication. When consumers speak to connected devices, vocal paralanguage (e.g., the sound of their voice or how something is said) and ambient sounds (e.g., sounds in the current environment and from activities) are inherently captured and reveal information about consumers. The article provides an overview of marketing relevant information around consumer states (e.g., emotions, health conditions, current activities) and traits (habits, ethnicity, personality, identity) that can be inferred from such auditory nonverbal disclosures. Additionally, it provides an overview of industry patents attesting both to the wide range of information about consumers that can be extracted from audio data and to industry interest in leveraging such data.

Practical implications of interest to marketers:

Practically relevant suggestions for marketers to aid them in counteracting processes that reduce consumers’ likelihood to disclose information verbally when speaking with connected devices.

How vocal paralanguage and ambient sound as new sources of information in oral interactions with connected devices can be used to improve targeting effectiveness, specificity, and context-awareness.

Of interest to policy makers:

Suggestions for consumer protection measures against mechanisms that may misleadingly increase consumers’ verbal disclosure likelihood when speaking to connected devices.

Privacy challenges of collecting and using information inferred from vocal paralanguage and ambient sound inherently captured in oral interactions with technology in light of both U.S. and European privacy legislation.

“Our analysis suggests that voice technology can increase, but also decrease, disclosure. From our research, policy makers can gain a better understanding of how to regulate the collection and use of information disclosed to voice-technology in the interest of consumer welfare. In particular, our analysis calls for higher privacy protections for information disclosed in oral interactions with technology,” says Bonezzi.


You can read the complete article at 

American Marketing Association

Members of the American Marketing Association are dedicated professionals who work, teach and study in the field and have a passion for advancing our industry.

This article was originally published in the Mortgage Banker Magazine January 2023 issue.
Published on
Jan 02, 2023
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