A Watchful Assistant Raises Privacy Concerns
The technology behind Accenture's Personal Awareness Assistant prototype is exciting, but the passive data collector's habit of taking pictures and recording almost everything raises privacy concerns.It is always on, passively listening. The Personal Awareness Assistant prototype from consulting firm Accenture has a speech recognition engine, two small microphones, a small camera and a scrolling audio buffer. But its more than a recording system. For example, if a user meets someone new and says "its nice to meet you," the Assistant takes a low-resolution picture of the person being greeted and then, when that person responds, records the name, storing the dated and time-stamped information in an address book. Providing users with "collective intelligence" in meetings is one proposed application for the Personal Awareness Assistant. Suppose, for example, youre in a demonstration for potential customers and are asked a question outside your area of expertise. The system mightthrough wireless networkingallow outside members of your team, who have been listening, to provide you with the answer immediately, via an earphone. Alternatively, you could use the system simply to replay snippets of important meetings for other team members.
On the flip-side, though, the potential applications for the Personal Awareness Assistant raise privacy concerns. According to a post at Accentures Web site: "While the Assistant is meant to be unobtrusive, Accenture researchers recognize that people may initially feel that being recorded disturbs their privacy. In response, the Assistant will have a built-in light that blinks when it records, for the sole purpose of alerting the person who is being recorded."