Linux Foundation launched initiative to improve voice recognition ethics

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The Linux Foundation created a new open-source industry association named the Open Voice Network (OVN) last week. The new group will be independently governed and have directed funding from the Linux Foundation. Its goal is to enhance trust, inclusivity, choice, and openness in voice recognition products and technologies.

The OVN may be similar to Amazon’s Voice Interoperability initiative but claims that it has a primary focus on ethics. Amazon’s effort touches on user choice and freedom. However, Amazon’s primary goal is more focused than OVN’s, to enable the provision of multiple, simultaneous voice services on the same product, with unique wake words.

The difference between Amazon and OVN

Amazon did not say much about ethical concerns or guidelines for the individual services, either in the current mission statement or the 2019 press release that announced the initiative.

The Open Voice Network operates as a neutral nonprofit industry association and has some impressive names funding it, including Target and Microsoft. OVN’s goals are not to develop the technology itself but to deliver usage guidelines promoting openness, trust, and inclusion standards.

The press release

In the press release, OVN gives us more information about what it is and what it will be doing. The focus is on:

  • Developing standards through research and recommendations, to create a global set of standards that will promote trust, inclusivity, and user choice.
  • Industry value and awareness: the identification and sharing of conversation AI best practices that are horizontal and specific to vertical industries, offering insight and value for voice assistance.
  • Advocacy is a major part of the initiative, which aims to work with and use existing industry associations on relevant regulatory and legislative issues, including data privacy.

Membership in OVN entails supporting research, advocacy, and awareness, with direct contribution of resources, as well as active participation in workshops and conferences.