Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Do We Reveal More or Less About Ourselves When Interacting with Voice Technology?

Do We Reveal More or Less About Ourselves When Interacting with Voice Technology?

Andrea Bonezzi, Johann Melzner and Tom Meyvis

We live in an era where consumers constantly interact with technological devices connected to the internet, and whenever they do so, they reveal information about themselves. The rapid propagation of voice technology is shifting the way consumers interact with technological devices from typing to speaking, raising an important question: Do consumers reveal more or less information about themselves when they interact with technology orally rather than manually?

In a new Journal of Marketing article, we answer this question by examining how voice technology influences what consumers disclose verbally (by voluntarily providing information through language) as well as nonverbally (by involuntarily revealing information through paralanguage and ambient sound).

First, we offer a framework that unpacks the complexities of how voice technology can affect consumers’ likelihood to disclose information verbally. Our analysis suggests that speaking to technology can sometimes increase and sometimes decrease verbal disclosure. Our framework provides impetus to gauge when and how voice technology can make consumers more versus less likely to disclose information verbally.


Second, we discuss how voice technology allows capturing nonverbal disclosures that are typically involuntary. When consumers speak to connected devices, vocal paralanguage (e.g., the sound of their voice or how something is said) and ambient sounds (e.g., sounds in the current environment and from activities) are inherently captured and reveal information about consumers. We provide an overview of consumer states (e.g., emotions, health conditions, current activities) and traits (habits, ethnicity, personality, identity) that can be inferred from such nonverbal disclosures.

Of Interest to Marketers

We provide practically relevant suggestions for marketers to aid them in counteracting processes that reduce consumers’ likelihood to disclose information verbally when speaking with connected devices. Additionally, we discuss how vocal paralanguage and ambient sound captured in oral interactions with connected devices can be used as novel data sources to improve targeting effectiveness, specificity, and context-awareness.

Of Interest to Policy Makers

We provide suggestions for improved consumer protection against mechanisms that may misleadingly increase consumers’ verbal disclosure likelihood when speaking to connected devices. Further, we discuss privacy challenges of collecting and using information inferred from vocal paralanguage and ambient sound inherently captured in oral interactions with technology in light of both U.S. and European privacy legislation.

Our analysis suggests that voice technology can increase, but also decrease, disclosure. From our research, policy makers can gain a better understanding of how to regulate the collection and use of information disclosed to voice technology in the interest of consumer welfare. In particular, our analysis calls for higher privacy protections for information disclosed in oral interactions with technology.

Read the full article

From: Johann Melzner, Andrea Bonezzi, and Tom Meyvis, “Information Disclosure in the Era of Voice Technology,” Journal of Marketing.

Go to the Journal of Marketing

Andrea Bonezzi is Associate Professor of Marketing, New York University, USA.

Johann Melzner is Assistant Professor of Marketing, University of Miami, USA.

Tom Meyvis was Merchants’ Council Professor of Retail Management and Consumer Behavior, New York University, USA.