82% of the French don’t know their voice is a personal data

A little more than one year after the General Data Protection Regulation’s first anniversary (GDPR),, the audiovisual industry’s first platform to propose an automated GDPR-compliance solution for dubbing & voiceover casting databases, decided to survey the French about their personal data, specifically, their voice: what do they use it for daily? Do they consider it a personal data, protected by European regulations, the same as their email, address or their phone number? According to them, what risks might these usages entail?

The French and their Voice

"Digital" usages are growing in popularity :

30% of the French use voice input (dictate SMS, emails…) while 24% record vocal messages via social networks 

More than 8 out of 10 don’t know voice is a personal data

Only 4 French our of 10 are aware that their voice can be reproduced

“Vocal” usages are increasingly common in daily French lives

It’s official, new technologies have invaded our daily lives and changed our way of functioning. Today, even if the French are loyal to traditional vocal usage – 86% of the French call their entourage on the telephone and 41% have already interacted with call centers – “digital usage”, in large part made possible because of technological innovations such as vocal recognition and Artificial Intelligence, has forged its way into our daily lives.

Indeed, many of them practice at least one of the following uses :  30% use voice input for text functionality (dictation of SMS, mails, etc.), 24% record vocal messages via social networks (Messenger, WhatsApp, etc.), 17% interact with voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa or Google Home, and to a lesser extent, 8% control connected objects with speech.

GDPR - Voice Personal Data

The scope of the GDPR application widely unknown

The French are largely unaware of the scope of the GDPR.

When asked about the context of their voice use (see above), 54% of them believe that it is only what they say that is protected by the European Regulation (ie the information that is spoken : email, name, telephone…), forgetting that their voice itself is also subject to protection (only 17% mention this).

Even more concerning : 2% of respondents have no knowledge of the level of protection offered by this regulation because they answer “neither of the two” to the question posed : they therefore believe that neither their voice or the spoken information is protected by the GDPR. »

Overall, more than 80% of the French are totally unaware that their voice is a personal data!

The risks are largely under estimated!

If voice is protected by the GDPR, it’s obviously because it can be used to identify a person. Knowing the voice of a person, makes it impossible for that person to benefit from anonymity they may wish to have., it also exposes them to the risk of identity theft. When asked about the risks that vocal uses may entail, only 39% are aware their voice can be reproduced, and thus expose them to the risk of identity theft.

This danger has significantly increased in recent years with the rise of new technologies; for example, just a few weeks ago, the researchers from start-up Dessa, specialising in Artificial Intelligence, announced they have created a replica of Joe Regan’s voice, a famous American podcaster, from collected voice data.

On the other hand, the French are more aware of potential risks incurred by the content (transmitted information) of their daily vocal uses ; 62% of respondents believe it can be stored and 53% think it can be analysed for commercial purposes.

Maître Henri Leben, DPO

“The scope of the GDPR remains unclear for a majority of the French and still requires awareness pedagogy.

If the level of understanding seems rather good in regards to "traditional" personal data, such as email, postal address or family name, it remains very weak when it comes to sensitive, such as voice, a biometric personal data.

Few people are aware it is a personal data in its own right, that identifies us, and one which can be exploited and manipulated. It says a lot about us, sometimes even more than what we post on our social networks !

In light of the numerous vocal usages that are being developed, it is imperative that we remind the French of their rights and educate them on the potential related risks of uncontrolled use of their voice”,

Maître Henri Leben

Leben Avocats, Paris

*Methodology :

Poll conducted on a Toluna sample of 1114 people, representative of the French population, aged 18 and over. The interviews were conducted by a self-administered online questionnaire from May 14 – 23, 2019.

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