No one knows how Google Duplex will work with eavesdropping laws

At Google's demonstration of its new IA Duplex Assistant this week, the voice assistant calls a hairdresser to book an appointment, holding a seemingly human conversation, with the receptionist on the other side apparently not realizing he is talking to an AI. Robots do not literally have ears, and to "listen" and analyze the audio from the other end, the conversation is being recorded. But about a dozen states, including California, require that everyone on the phone call give their consent before a recording can be made.

It is unclear how these spy laws affect Google Duplex. In fact, it is not so clear that we can not get a direct response from Google.

A Google spokesperson told him The Verge during I / O, where Duplex was presented, that the assistant would not come to several states, due to concerns about these "multi-party" listening laws. But when a clarification was requested again, a Google spokesperson told us that the I / O demonstration had been an initial version of the product, and that the final version would notify people in some way that they were talking to a robot or recording.

"We are designing this feature with the built-in disclosure, and we will make sure that the system is properly identified," the spokesperson said.

Google has already adapted the consent laws of all parties in its other products: if you record a call in Google Voice, it automatically plays a small pre-recorded propaganda that announces that the call is being recorded.

Google also declined to clarify if a recording is being made when Duplex is running, and if so, if Google would be retaining those recordings in the long term. Duplex, as shown in I / O, does not allow users to access any recording or even listen to the conversation while it is happening. As far as we know, the recordings are being made, analyzed and destroyed very quickly. But, nonetheless, it could still come into conflict with California's espionage law. "The California courts typically interpreted the taping for the purpose of the wiretapping act to virtually include any type of recording, and there is no exception for temporary recording in the short term," says Everett Monroe, who teaches privacy laws at the University from San Francisco. The law's school.

Voicebot.ai published a blog post earlier this week claiming that Duplex would not be available in these "all-match" states of consent: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington. (The complete list of consent states of all parties will fluctuate depending on who you ask, because the state of law in Delaware and Michigan is somewhat nuanced).

We asked Google if the blog post was incorrect and we did not receive a response.

Creating a "disclosure" in Duplex is probably good to go; think, for example, of all the times you have been waiting while a prerecorded voice tells you that "this call is being recorded for quality control purposes". . "A notification that you're talking to a robot would also solve the strange ethical dilemma about whether it's okay to implement automated processes in involuntary representatives of customer service.

And doing that will also mean omitting the headache-inducing questions about how the old espionage statutes apply to robot voice assistants Is a recording still a recording if no human being ever listens to it? Who is a "part" of a duplex call if the caller is not listening? If Google plays the correct pre-recorded beeps, boops and disclaimers, we will never have to answer any of these questions.