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Intelligent assistants stir privacy fears

News, 15 October 2015

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO: US consumers broadly welcome "intelligent assistants", but the great majority (83%) would not accept these virtual agents to share their information without their knowledge or control, a new survey has shown.

Timed to coincide with the US launch of tech start-up MyWave at the Opus Intelligent Assistants Conference in New York, the survey revealed that already 44% of US consumers have used an intelligent assistant to help with tasks.

Although MyWave did not provide a survey sample, the company claimed another 41% of respondents said they would like an intelligent assistant to perform services for them, as a real person would, if it knew their detailed personal preferences.

But the extent of concern about privacy should act as "an enormous wake-up call" for the emergent intelligent assistant industry, according to MyWave founder and CEO Geraldine McBride.

"Consumers are already sensitive about data theft, security breaches, and the continual collection and use of their personal data by the major computer, cell phone and social network operating systems and related applications," she said.

"As intelligent assistants gain in popularity, the industry must be aware that consumers are overwhelmingly against using intelligent assistants that are able to collect and use their personal data without their knowledge or permission."

She went on to tell the conference that intelligent assistants – a conversational technology that aims to bring a natural, human-like interface to mobile and other devices – could also begin to change the current Customer Relationship Management (CRM) approach used by most businesses.

McBride predicted that CRM would be replaced by Customer Managed Relationship (CMR) technology where users have greater control.

"As intelligent assistants become commonplace in our everyday lives, consumers will gravitate to assistants offering CMR software to manage their shopping and information-gathering experiences," she said.

"Ultimately, consumers will decide how and when to share their personal data with brands."

Data sourced from MyWave; additional content by Warc staff