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Meet the Author - Joseph Turow

Joseph Turow is the Robert Lewis Shayon Professor of Media Systems & Industries at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He has authored twelve books, edited five, and written more than 160 articles on mass media industries. Joseph will join us at VOICE Global 2021 on June 16 to talk about his latest book, The Voice Catchers: How Marketers Listen in to Exploit Your Emotions, Your Privacy, and Your Wallet (Yale, 2021).

He will be discussing the less visible side of AI-powered voice tech: the massive data collection these new services enable. Turow will also provide insights into where the industry is headed and what we can do to curb some of the more invasive practices moving forward.

Plugging the leak

It may not be immediately apparent to everyone what our voices and speech patterns reveal about us and how much of that data is being collected by advertisers when using AI-powered voice tech. Turow's writing is enlightening in that regard. "Vocal assistants are extremely seductive on many levels. At the same time, the companies that put them out try to play down the possible and even actual surveillance that takes place with respect to voice." He continues, "A lot of advertisers see voice as 'value added' to understanding people. Age, health, weight, height are what you can get from people's voices."

But far from an attack on voice technology, Turow’s book recognizes that no technology is perfect and that to fix problems, one must first acknowledge they exist. As Turow says, “So much development of AI when it comes to voice, natural language processing, and a lot of stuff related to that is terrific. That’s not what the book is about. The book is about the use of profiling of the voice to make inferences about us, which then leads to certain kinds of discriminatory activities.”

The future is bright, but let’s remain thoughtful

Turow believes that we’re at a crossroads right now. Voice technology is an emerging industry that is still in flux. And while there are serious issues with some of the ways it’s being deployed, it’s not too late to change that trajectory. Turow hopes his book will help make sure voice technology better serves individuals and society at large. “One of the great challenges in the next decade will be figuring out what the boundaries are of biometrics in commercial life.”

Watch University of Pennsylvania Professor Joseph Turow, June 16, during VOICE Global. Check the speaker lineup and join us for these and other engaging speakers across a variety of industries.

VOICE Global