Microsoft reincarnation chatbot raises legal, ethical concerns

Occurred: January 2021

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A Microsoft patent application that would see dead people digitally resurrected for friends and family to interact with has been approved.

The patent envisages that the chatbot could apply to a 'past or present entity', 'friend, a relative, an acquaintance, a celebrity, a fictional character, a historical figure', or 'random entity', would be trained on a range of sources, including 'images, voice data, social media posts, electronic messages, written letters etc', and may take 2D or 3D form.

Reactions to the technology range from 'weird' to 'dystopian', while digital rights advocates fear it could be used for nefarious purposes. In the absence of existing legislation, lawyers worry that digital resurrection raises real concerns about privacy, copyright, defamation, and other issues.

Microsoft representatives say there are currently no plans to put the chatbot into production.


Operator: Microsoft
Developer: Microsoft
Country: USA
Sector: Technology
Purpose: Imitate personality
Technology: Chatbot; NLP/text analysis
Issue: Appropriateness/need; Privacy; Copyright; Defamation

Page info
Type: Issue
Published: January 2021