New research from Vantage Market Research suggests the global voice assistant market will reach $22.2 billion by 2030, which is up from $2.9 billion in 2022. The firm predicts smart speakers will make up more than 35% of total sales within the voice-assistant market by 2030. While advanced features and developments in AI (artificial intelligence) and NLP (natural language processing) are boosting the demand for smart speakers, consumers are concerned about the privacy of their data.
A Microsoft study once reported 41% of voice-assistant users have concerns about trust, privacy, and passive listening. Similarly, PWC has reported a lack of trust is a key hurdle for voice assistants moving from the realm of “basic tasks” (like providing information and controlling other smart devices in the home) into more sophisticated tasks, like making purchases. One in four consumers in PWC’s study said they wouldn’t consider shopping using a voice assistant, ever.
Amazon has been in the news recently for violating the COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) Rule with its Alexa voice-assistant-powered devices. Specifically, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and the DOJ (Dept. of Justice) say Amazon wrongfully kept and used kids’ voice recordings and geolocation data, and it also prevented parents from exercising their right to have their children’s data deleted as laid out in the COPPA Rule.
The DOJ filed the complaint against Amazon on behalf of the FTC, and the proposed order would require Amazon to not only pay a $25 million penalty but also overhaul its deletion practices and privacy safeguards. The complaint, dated the last day in May, accuses Amazon of failing to follow through on its promises to allow users the ability to delete voice recordings and geolocation data collected from Alexa. In some cases, the FTC says Amazon kept some of this information for years and “used the data it unlawfully retained to help improve its Alexa algorithm.”
In addition to the hefty civil penalty, the proposed order would force Amazon to delete inactive child accounts, as well as certain voice recordings and geolocation information. In the future, the FTC says the order would prohibit Amazon from using similar data to train its algorithms. Other requirements, if the federal court puts the order into effect, would include Amazon notifying users about the action against it and creating and implementing a privacy program around the company’s use of geolocation data.
Amazon says it kept the voice recordings of children’s commands to Alexa so it could improve its voice assistant’s ability to understand children’s unique and varied speech patterns and accents. However, under the COPPA Rule, service providers aren’t allowed to keep data collected from children under the age of 13 for “longer than is reasonably necessary to provide the service.”
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