Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Want Emails Read to You? This Virtual Assistant Will Do So Soon

Do you get a lot of email? Do you use Outlook for email? And do you drive by yourself to commute? If you answered yes to all three of these questions, you may be in luck as Microsoft's digital assistant Cortana may soon be able to read you your emails from Outlook.

This time saving feature promises to save those over-emailed commuters some valuable time, though doing so may cut into those precious moments of solitude and quiet reflection while commuting. Currently, Cortana's email reading functionality is being tested. If successful it could be rolled out in an update to Outlook. But before you start letting Cortana read your emails during your commute, you should make sure you know how it works.

How Ethical Is Your Digital Assistant?

For the most part, using a digital assistant like Cortana, Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant won't automatically lead to ethics violations. Although the information is usually sent off to a third party server, it is typically secure or encrypted such that no ethical duties are breached.

However, you do need to be careful with how you use convenience technologies. For instance, if you use an FM transmitter to make calls in your car, or simply to use your smartphone's other capabilities, others may be able to intercept your calls and interactions more easily than you might think (simply by tuning into the same radio station as you and being in close proximity). This isn't a vulnerability of the digital assistant, but rather how it is used.

Likewise, if your Alexa or Siri is available or unlockable by others, it could result in confidential information being divulged, such as contact lists, or emails (as Siri has the email reading capability as well). In the end, how you implement the convenience technologies matters.

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