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Voice Control and Social Norms

Posted Oct 09, 2011 in Technology and Usability

Siri’s social dilemma:

Secondly, voice assistance carries a whole host of privacy issues. Some are basic: How do you prevent others from using your phone with voice commands? What kind of access security is built in to a system like Siri? In some cases, it can become more complex. Consider how much private information is contained in your smartphone. How much of that information would you be comfortable broadcasting around you to strangers and people you know? Would you be willing to have Siri dictate your texts, emails or appointments out loud in your workplace? At home? You can imagine a thousand and one scenarios where that would be undesirable. Would you want a secretary dictating your next appointment out loud into your doctor’s iPhone for everyone in the waiting room to hear?

I have no idea if Siri’s voice control service is as good as the hype claims (let me be uncharacteristically pessimistic and assume not), but if it is — and if becomes widely used — then we’re probably looking at a shift in social norms around communication technology as significant as the shifts following the adoption of the mobile phone. Remember when conspicuous mobile phone usage marked you out as an irredeemable wanker? And how that marking changed almost overnight?

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