Third-party Voice Assistant Apps and Personally Identifiable Information

One of the more common requests from clients is how to access personally identifiable information (PII), such as an email address, through a virtual assistant. Both Alexa and Google Assistant know the accounts they’re associated with. So, they should be able to get to the user’s email address. The short answer is they can, but for a third-party application to get access to the user’s account data, the user must first give permission.

Third-party voice apps may request access to PII

Voice App Design Considerations

When designing and developing voice apps, consider the consequences of accessing the virtual assistant user’s personal data.

  1. The person using Alexa or Google Assistant may not be the one who is the device owner. Think of families within one household, friends playing a voice-enabled game, passengers in a car, kids using a parent’s phone.

  2. With new privacy laws, companies must comply with regulations that could cost more than the lifetime value of the data.

  3. Asking users to grant permission to access their Amazon or Google data may scare them away.

But let’s assume you need the data to complete your marketing campaign.

User Permissions for Third-party apps on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant

The common analogy is websites that let users login with Google or Facebook accounts. The user tells the website they want to login using those accounts. Then they see an appropriate login screen, where, after providing credentials, they then tell Google or Facebook that the website is allowed to access their account data.

The same thing goes for a voice application, in that it can request access to your data. Since you’re already logged in via the assistant, it’s just a matter of the user giving permission, but this is where Alexa and Google Assistant differ.

For Alexa, this is an entirely manual operation. The user must either go into the Alexa app on their phone or via the skill store in a browser and grant access to the skill to their data.

If Google Assistant is trained to recognize the user’s voice then they can give permission to your action to access their account information, by simply saying “yes” for a truly friction-less experience.

Sample screen for signing into a web site
Sample only - Granting permission analogy

Voice App Dev/Ops Responsibilities

Regardless of how third-party apps access user data, companies have the responsibility of security and compliance.

Have further questions on voice application development? Feel free to reach out to Whetstone Technologies via our Contact page to schedule a free one-hour consult.

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