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Be Careful What You Ask For…

Created: 26 Jul 2012 • Updated: 01 Aug 2012
phlphrrs's picture
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A recent announcement by a large technology company that they’re not allowing use of iPhone Siri capability due to privacy and data loss concerns got me thinking about how far voice recognition technology has advanced the ability to use our voices, instead of typing, in a more fluent way to get technology to do something for us.  Voice technology, while it’s been around quite a while, has been a long time coming in a usable and seamless way. And technology like Apple’s Siri takes it to the next level by making it more ubiquitous. In this next instantiation of voice-driven workability, we now have a blending of mobile capabilities and cloud capabilities.  This combination offers a greater degree of flexibility and fluidity by extending the technology into the cloud and taking great advantage of honing the calibration of voice recognition on a dramatically large scale.

From a security professional’s view, however, this does introduce another big, not insurmountable, problem – protecting information conveyed by voice and translated to text that may be sensitive and confidential and is stored in the cloud.  Again, another situation where consumers and enterprises are finding this out after the “horse has left the barn.”  Consider how cavalier most people are with what they say with others around them.  The only concern most of us have with saying something confidential or slipping a secret to another is how long that information will be retained in short-term memory before it gets jumbled around and/or forgotten.

Let’s consider the idea and intent behind using the cloud to improve the capability of voice recognition. It does enable accelerated growth and development of the technology in a very usable and practical way.  This could dramatically shift how consumers and enterprises conduct their business via technology.  The notion that talk-to-text becomes a reliable platform for transmitting ideas, requests, actions and information from our brains to technology without having to physically type has the potential to increase our productivity, whether at work or in our personal lives, in a very dramatic way.

Getting back to the security issues, this is another case where the developer needs to build security into the technology after it’s already released.  How much will it cost and how long will this take?  Does the world wait until there’s a breach of some kind in order for there to be a change? Will it take increased pressure from privacy groups, corporations or the federal government?   Granted, many of us don’t really understand the inner workings of these new cloud resources and how they are secured, but that’s just a part of the problem.  The good news is that there are companies that have taken some initiative to protect privacy based upon pressure from privacy groups but is that enough?  There are also various companies like, Symantec, that are bringing secure cloud solutions to the marketplace for enterprises and consumers to protect sensitive information while being communicated, stored or used. 

This type of innovation and advancement needs to continue because I believe it will contribute in a great way to driving mobility and cloud such that it will dramatically increase productivity and growth in enterprises and consumers.  Along the way, however, the companies bringing these innovations to the world have to ensure that information, whether spoken or typed, must be protected wherever it lands and however it is to be used.

Be careful what you say now, it could end up in the cloud; indexed, sorted, retained in a highly reliable fashion, and ready to be fed back to you or the world, word for word.

Cross-posted from In Defense of Data.

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