Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More GOOG 411 - call recordings

Here's an interesting item about 800 GOOG 411: Google is recording calls for the purpose of improving its application's performance. I've blogged about GOOG 411 before; the service is a simple way to find phone numbers of businesses in any area of the country.

There's nothing unique or objectionable about recording speech samples in order to improve your application performance. Nearly anyone who uses speech IVRs probably wishes they would work better than they do. The article that I linked to quotes Google's plain language privacy policy, stating that Google is recording calls, and-for good measure-collecting ANIs in order to "personalize" the caller's experience. The article goes on to state that the recordings are used for "phonemic analysis" and "voice prints," and conjures an "Orwellian" scenario out of this information.

Whoa. Let's take a breath here. Recordings of interactions between a caller and an IVR don't necessarily mean that they're being used for "phonemic analysis." I listen to recorded calls all the time as part of tuning exercises to improve an IVR application's performance, but there's no "phonemic analysis" involved. And as far as storing voice prints, for the amount of speech that GOOG 411 requires for a search, it would be a pretty ineffective way of collecting a voice print. Not to say that it couldn't be done, but it's not the way voice prints are usually collected.

There's no doubt about one thing: people get very concerned over voice prints and other types of biometrics. I've conducted research on consumers' perceptions of voice prints and what it takes to get people to trust the technology enough to use it. There is genuine mistrust of biometric technologies that companies who employ biometrics need to deal with.

However, I can't find any reference to voice prints in any of the information provided in this article. The author read "recordings" and thought "voice prints." If that's a typical response from a customer to a "calls recorded for quality" announcement, then we all need to do some serious customer education. If Google is, in fact, collecting voice prints, I'd sure like to know how they are doing it.

1 comment:

Lou Costanzo said...

Here is my only concern. If Goog 411 wants to record me asking for the number of the nearest pizza place, that is fine. But if it records my conversation with that pizza place so it can market to me according to my love for pepperoni, that is not good. So what is it that Google is recording? What you ask for it, or the entire call of you asking for the number and when it connects you? How much is recorded?