Do you use voice notes? Do you know what you’re giving away?

Photo (c) Yuliia Konakhovska - Getty Images

Biometric collection is moving forward and not stopping to ask whether you like it or not

If the Eighties were part of your life, you saw this coming. Not the polyester, tight, v-neck shirts, but a foretelling of where we’ve come to communicating with each other. “It’s so funny – we don’t talk anymore.” Thanks, Cliff Richard.

Technology has pretty much ruined interpersonal communication. We can’t communicate with most of the people in our lives these days without it.

E-mail was our first crutch. Then, texting. Now, a new trend that’s on the rise when talking to loved ones is voice notes. It’s a big rise, too – WhatsApp said last year that over 7 billion voice messages were sent via its app.

To find out why, Preply surveyed Americans to get their reasons. The top finding is that a majority – two in every three – send voice notes. 

“Americans say voice notes are convenient while they are on the go” Melissa Stephenson, media relations associate with North Star Inbound told ConsumerAffairs. “The study showed that 44% said they use voice notes while driving and another 44% use them when they are in a hurry, showing an easier way to multitask and communicate.”

The debate continues

Once you get past the convenience aspect, do the upsides of voice notes outweigh the downside? 

“Forty percent of Americans who use voice notes say they are good enough to replace phone calls, and one in four prefer using voice notes to keep in touch with those they don’t see often,"  Stephenson said. "These findings show people are building and keeping personal connections with voice notes.”

Other research shows that voice notes allow people to have more expressive conversations than texting or an emoji provides. 

The hellish side

Still, people are divided on voice notes. Some think voice note’rs are poison. Others are worried about their confidentiality.

“While people are sending and receiving voice notes, one aspect has them worried. Forty-one percent of Americans say they think it’s easier to eavesdrop on voice notes, putting privacy at risk. Using headphones or waiting to listen to a voice note while in private may help with this issue,” Stephenson said.”

“Another downside of voice notes is the effort they take. Forty-eight percent believe voice notes require more effort than a traditional typed text and a large majority say that they often need to listen to a voice note more than once to fully understand and respond appropriately, which might explain why they feel extra effort is needed for them.”

Tech experts' two-cents worth

The debate over voice notes gets a little more contentious when you ask tech and privacy professionals. Their sermons include concerns about data being shared with third parties, leading to cyberpiracy and other issues.

As ConsumerAffairs recently found out, a meager three seconds of a person’s voice in the wrong hands could lead to them being hounded for the rest of their lives by AI-using cyber creeps.

When someone uses voice-related information, they cross a line they probably don’t realize they’re crossing: biometric data. Dr. Dani Cherkassky, CEO, Co-founder of Kardome, says that biometric data stored locally on a person’s phone may not pose a risk to user privacy, but that abuses can occur when the tech companies that offer voice recognition devices store this data in the cloud.

Cherkassky reminds consumers that the biometrics-capturing cat is out of the bag. Google and Amazon have caught heat for capturing biometrics, but they aren't the only ones doing it.

There’s no uniformity in how those data collections are regulated, either. Some states have wiretapping laws, some don’t, and the EU takes the subject more seriously than the U.S. does.

Concerned about the danger of biometrics?

Raj Ananthanpillai, founder and CEO of Trua, a company that provides identity protection in digital environments, says anyone who bristles at the thought of their voice recordings coming back to haunt them has all the triggers they need to prevent that from happening.

“Many smartphones and tablets incorporate biometric authentication, such as fingerprint or facial recognition, to unlock the device or authorize transactions,” he told ConsumerAffairs.

He suggests the first thing everyone should do is look at the permissions they’re granting to apps or services that use biometrics on their devices. For example, Apple gives its users all of the keys necessary to do that within their iPhones.

Ananthanpillai’s second ace is to limit data sharing. “Be cautious about sharing biometric data with third-party apps or services and evaluate the trustworthiness of the entities requesting access to biometric information,” he said.

His third? Regularly review permissions. Every time you download or update an app, take a look at what permissions you’re granting for the use of biometrics. If you’re the least bit uncomfortable, one click will revoke access if necessary and remove unnecessary biometric data stored on devices or apps.

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