Google Duplex accused of being 'deceitful' and 'unethical'

Occurred: May 2018

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A demonstration of Google's Duplex AI assistant drew criticism that it was misleading users into thinking they were dealing with human being rather than a machine.

Duplex was an extension to Google Assistant that enables it to autonomously schedule appointments and book restaurants in a human-sounding voice. First shown as an unfinished product at Google's I/O developers’ conference in 2018, it received plaudits for sounding remarkably human by pausing in the right places, using filler words, and other techniques. 

But criticism was also aimed at Google for failing to disclose that people would be communicating with a machine, with people calling the company 'deceitful' and 'unethical'. In a statement to The Verge, Google said it took transparency seriously and would explicitly let people know they were interacting with a machine.


Operator: Alphabet/Google
Developer: Alphabet/Google
Country: USA
Sector: Consumer goods
Purpose: Schedule appointments
Technology: Speech recognition; NLP/text analysis; Machine learning
Issue: Anthropomorphism; Ethics/values
Transparency: Marketing