Chatbot technology and ethical issues

Chatbots are computer applications programmed to mimic human behavior using machine learning and natural language processing. In other words they simulates human conversations through voice commands or text chats or both. Chatbot can answer questions, fill in forms and help customers make transactions. These computer apps have already become a part of our lives. Chatbot builders as well as chatbot users alike are starting to understand that chatbots are an integral part of our everyday life. But what are the rules that govern these new tech friends?


Privacy, identity, and other ethical concerns

Can chatbot replace human?

Can chatbot share information with other chatbots or humans?

Should information be anonymous?

Do users have the right to be forgotten?

Is there a user-bot confidentiality agreement?

Who owns the materials/photos created by a chatbot?

Who owns users shopping preferences?

Can chatbot use data provided by its users?


These and lots of more questions bother chatbot builders and its users. So let’s try to answer at least some of them.

The privacy and protection of user data is one of the most concerned areas when it comes to the use of bots. Transparency is the best way of action – when customers interact with a chatbot, they need to know they are communicating with a machine and not with an actual human. They also need to know that the security of the bot’s input and output databases in order to avoid the loss of sensitive corporate or private user information. Users need to be sure that the questions they ask and the interactions they have with bots will remain private and secure. Therefore bot’s builders should build in mechanisms to ensure the privacy of user information in any interaction — an unspoken user-bot confidentiality agreement. This means that all of the history of communication between user and bot should be deleted after completion of the interaction. Publicly-available privacy policy is a must have for any organization.


Another issue is could chatbots be able to show some level of empathy and sensitivity when it comes to interacting with users? Because of the conversational nature of bots, they are much more prone for abuse. Most bot developers claimed that users try all kinds of abuse, starting from cursing the bot by finishing on hitting the bot. This topic can be looked from both sides: can human abuse bots? Or can bots abuse humans? This is a big issue to solve.


Gender and identity are two additional and important concerns for chatbot owners and users. Should your bot be male, female, gender neutral, or perhaps entirely genderless? Genderless bots might be easier to imagine for English-speaking bots, but what about bots that speak Spanish or Polish? The way to resolve this issue might be providing a customer a choice to choose bot’s gender (as well as  other diversity attributes).


Ethics should be a core consideration of any action taken by a business. With chatbots still in a early stage of evolution the discovery of new ethical issues is likely to continue.