Hello! I am Your AI Representative Today – California Regulates Chat Bots

December 16, 2018 | by Srivats Shankar
The Blade Runner Law Makes More Noise than Impact

In September 2018, California passed SB 1001 – popularly known as the Blade Runner law. It was authored by state representative Robert Hertzberg, subsequently passed by the California Senate, and notified by the Governor. The scope and ambit of the legislation is specific and targeted towards consumer protection. Consisting of only four provisions, the legislation simply provides a set of guidelines on how to regulate “bots”. Per se the legislation does not do much, but aim to ensure that users have an additional layer of information when interacting with automated systems only for the purpose of purchasing goods and services.

As a result, the law mandates that any platform using automated systems or “bots” needs to clearly inform its users that it is using a bot when interacting with them. The extent of this requirement is unclear, as to whether a bot that merely informs the user about their status in a cue and offers information from a pre-existing knowledge base would be covered within the scope if it is used in relation to the purchase of goods and services. Ideally, most goods and service providers would simply accept this requirement and automatically insert this notification in their platform to meet the legislative requirement.

Interestingly, the definition of a bot, “means an automated online account where all or substantially all of the actions or posts of that account are not the result of a person.” This definition clearly indicates towards a limited understanding of bots, which utilize online accounts. There are many situations where bots can potentially acting an anonymous fashion, without ever creating an account and do not result from a person. In such situations whether this requirement would need to be affected remains questionable. However, it is very material that such consideration be given since a larger number of chatbots are able to identify potential customers in obscure reaches of the internet, with greater open sourcing of information on how to develop these systems. This legislation is probably one of the most watered-down requirements to protect customers and in the long run would not have major ramifications to how provider operates.

In September 2018, California passed SB 1001 – popularly known as the Blade Runner law. It was passed by the California Senate, and notified by the Governor. The scope and ambit of the legislation is specific and targeted towards consumer protection. Consisting of only four provisions, the legislation simply provides a set of guidelines on how to regulate “bots”.