Google's hyper-realistic Duplex chatbot will let you know it's recording you – but only in places where it's a legal obligation.
At a staff meeting, executives reassured Google employees that openness and ethics had been at the top of its agenda long before Duplex made its chatty debut at the annual Google I/O conference.
Bosses also reiterated that Duplex will introduce itself on the phone as an AI assistant, so you aren't fooled into thinking you're chatting to a fellow human being.
Duplex is due to become part of Google Assistant in the future, acting as an AI secretary. If you want to make a booking with a restaurant, hair salon or other service, for example, just let the assistant know and it'll make the call on your behalf, using incredibly realistic speech patterns – complete with the occasional 'um' and 'er' when it's processing.
Laws on recording phone calls vary between countries and jurisdictions. Recording without permission from all parties (opens in new tab) is illegal in 11 US states, including California (where Google is based), Florida and Washington, but it's perfectly fine in the remaining 39.
Call recording is also covered by the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules, which come into force this week. If implemented outside the US, Duplex would have to let everyone it calls know that it's recording the line, and give them the chance to hang up if they don't fancy it.
If Duplex is rolled out worldwide, it seems the simplest thing would be to make it fully transparent to everyone that it's monitoring their calls, whether it's strictly necessary or not – especially considering public feeling about the handling of personal data right now.