Nationwide Building Society, a finance firm based in the United Kingdom, has just announced they will be investing in a “behavioral analytics startup,” known as Scaled Insights. According to Nationwide, Scaled Insight’s speech analysis AI will be used to build individual profiles for their clientele, in order to tailor the bank’s communications to fit each customer’s needs — or “linguistic personality,” as they’re calling it.
The mainstream media is reporting on how a hospital in Leeds is already using this technology to help patients, perhaps in order to present this new AI technology as benevolent. But the truth is that no large corporation ever makes a large investment without expecting an even larger return. Nationwide is expected to pump $5.31 billion into new technologies over the next five years. Do you really think they’re investing that kind of money just to serve their customers better?
Bank invests in speech tracking AI
According to reports, the AI-powered speech analysis from Scaled Insights uses 130 different variables to generate a “linguistic personality” profile for anyone and everyone. The AI generates a “profile” for customers based on their language and vocabulary, and then responds back in kind. As the Daily Mail contends, speaking to Prince Charles of Wales would be a very different experience than speaking with the “Prince of Darkness,” Ozzy Osborne.
The theory is that linguistic personalities are like a fingerprint, and having an understanding of what drives them is valuable information. Organizations like Nationwide supposedly want to use these “insights” to offer more personalized service to their customers.
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NHS hospitals in Leeds are already using Scaled Insights to help treat and communicate with patients who have health conditions like obesity. The AI helps physicians select the words and phrases the patient is most likely to understand and appreciate.
The use of this technology in order to help physicians communicate with patients better doesn’t change the fact that it is downright creepy. While this technology may have some benign uses, the fact remains that large corporations simply should not be able to invade individual privacy in this way. These linguistic profiles aren’t going to be used just to enhance communication; companies are going to use these profiles to manipulate people. There is simply no way any company would spend five billion dollars on customer service without expecting a serious increase in revenue.
Speech analysis or invasion of privacy?
When you call your bank, you don’t expect them to be building a profile on you during the conversation. While corporations may claim this technology will be used to help you understand them better, the truth is that Nationwide and others like them want to use this AI and build linguistic profiles so they can understand you better.
The insights gleaned from these profiles can be used for a variety of unsavory activities. From targeted marketing campaigns to tracking your activities, these linguistic profiles are actually a total invasion of privacy. You may think, “Oh, they’re just seeing what kinds of words I use,” but no — there is a lot more information to be had here. Meta-data is always what these big companies are really after. Meta data can tell them what time you called, where you were calling from and much more. So now, they’ve got a personal profile tailored just to you: They can estimate your intelligence, social status, what your personality is like, and what your habits are — all from a few simple conversations with a computer-generated program.
This is next-level Big Brother insanity — and you, as a consumer, don’t even get the opportunity to consent to this massive invasion of privacy.
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