Are you human? Can you be sure that the conversations you have on the web are with living, breathing human beings or machines programmed to interact with you, without you ever realising?
Well, big companies like Google and Facebook are betting you can’t tell the difference and are investing heavily in the development of robots or “Bots” that might one day replace humans for all sorts of tasks, from negotiating the sale of a house, recommending a holiday destination, looking for online bargains, through to replacing front line staff in a call centre.
It was Alan Turing (the same chap responsible for cracking the Enigma code used by the German armed forces during the Second World War) who contributed significantly to the concept of human-machine interaction. He believed that if a machine could fool a human into thinking it was human 50% of the time, it effectively demonstrated intelligence. The Turing Test is still used today to see how Artificial Intelligence (AI) performs against humans and you’ll have seen CAPTCHA screens online where you have to prove you’re human.
While Turing was well ahead of his time, recent advances in AI have meant this concept, now commonly referred to as Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity (A.L.I.C.E), has resulted in the development of all kinds of Bots. These Bots are able to interact with us as consumers, as readily as any sales rep or customer service agent (and probably more effectively in some instances).
The application for this kind of technology has yet to be fully realised, but the potential cost savings to business offered by machines that can engage with customers to process orders or diagnosing illnesses, is compelling. We live in a society that demands convenience in all customer service interactions and Bots may end up bridging the gap between consumers and apps, taking the “effort” out of search.
For example, imagine a world where every detail of your day was organised by a Bot; from ordering and paying for a gift for your father’s birthday because the Bot knew you would forget, to booking you a holiday just when it looks like work is getting stressful. This is the future and tech firms are making it a reality now.
For the privacy professional, Bots and other disruptive technologies often present challenges that the law can find awkward to accommodate. However, those same challenges also offer us an opportunity to add privacy to the mix in a positive way, adding real value to organisations that seek to innovate and to improve the experiences of our customers, clients, patients and users. Yes, we are in the business of advising on risk but we are also in the business of developing products and services that leverage privacy as an asset to our organisations. Always ask yourself how privacy can make a business proposition better!
When you’re next chatting online to a customer service agent, I’ll leave it to you to decide if you’re actually talking to a person or not!
Mike Bond, September 2016
The information provided and the opinions expressed in this document represent the views of the Data Protection Network. They do not constitute legal advice and cannot be construed as offering comprehensive guidance on the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or other statutory measures referred to.