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Fubon Center Doctoral Fellow Research

Information Disclosure in the Era of Voice Technology

Johann Melzner

Entering the Era of Sound and Voice - Implications for Online Information Disclosure, Privacy Expectations, and Audio Branding

The way consumers interact with technology is gradually shifting from typing and clicking (i.e., manual communication) to speaking (i.e., oral communication). This shift from keyboards to vocal cords is rooted in the tremendous advances in voice recognition, natural language processing, and speech synthesis brought about by artificial intelligence, and has been fueled by the proliferation of voice-enabled digital assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, or the Google Assistant.

In a conceptual paper, we provide a framework to understand how oral, as compared to manual, communication with technology affects consumer information disclosure. We identify key dimensions on which oral and manual communication modalities differ, and discuss how these differences may either facilitate or hinder propensity to disclose verbal (i.e., semantic content) information when consumers communicate with technology. We further discuss the disclosure of non-verbal disclosure and how voice technology enables the collection of an additional layer of information, mostly absent in manual communication, through paralanguage and ambient sound. 

In an empirical paper, we specifically focus on consumers’ differential privacy expectations as a function of communication modality. Specifically, we show that consumers have higher privacy expectations in oral as compared to manual communication in online interactions with technology. We investigate the origin of higher privacy expectations in oral communication, examine actionable measures to attenuate them, and test downstream consequences for targeted advertising receptivity.

In the digital era, information about consumers is both a valuable economic asset as well as a prevalent consumer welfare issue and voice technology allows for a new and increasingly common way to collect such information. This research aims to inform both marketers interested in using information collected through voice technology as well as policy makers who face the arduous task to regulate information collection and usage.