Old Navy's AI Chatbot Faces Illegal Wiretapping Lawsuit
Old Navy is facing a lawsuit in the Central District of California alleging that its artificial intelligence chatbot participates in illegal wiretapping by logging, recording and storing conversations, reports CNBC. The plaintiff’s filing argues that the chatbot “convincingly impersonates an actual human that encourages consumers to share their personal information.” In the filing, the plaintiff says he communicated with what he believed to be a human Old Navy customer service representative and was unaware that the chatbot was recording and storing the “entire conversation,” including keystrokes, mouse clicks and other data about how users navigate the site. The suit also alleges that Old Navy unlawfully shares consumer data with third parties without informing consumers or seeking consent.
Old Navy isn’t the only brand to face similar charges. Dozens of lawsuits have popped up in California against The Home Depot, General Motors, Ford, JCPenney and others, citing similar complaints of illegal wiretapping of private online chat conversations, albeit not necessarily with an AI-powered chatbot.
Total Retail's Take: Privacy lawsuits are continuing to hit retailers, and now with a new twist. Can an AI chatbot be convicted of illegal wiretapping? Gap's Old Navy will be the first retailer to face this question in court. According to CNBC, AI experts say a likely outcome of the lawsuit is less intriguing than the charges: Old Navy and other companies will add a warning label to inform users that their data might be recorded and shared for training purposes — much like how customer service reps warn users that conversations may be recorded for training purposes.
The lawsuit highlights privacy questions around chatbots and how companies are allowed to utilize AI. AI-powered chatbots encourage users to interact and enter information, and they could presumably feed personal data into the system, putting customer information at risk. With no unifying federal-level regulation about online privacy, companies must be cautious around how they implement AI tools, including chatbot technology, as any slip could put them at risk to a similar lawsuit.
Kristina Stidham is the digital content director at Total Retail and sister brands Women in Retail Leadership Circle and Women Leading Travel & Hospitality at NAPCO Media. She is passionate about digital media and handles video, podcast and virtual event production for all brands. You can often find her at WIRLC, TR, WLT&H or industry events with her camera and podcasting equipment—or at home on Zoom—recording interviews with thought leaders and business executives.
Kristina holds a B.A. in Media Studies and Production from the Temple University Klein College of Media and Communication in Philadelphia. Go Owls! When she's not in the office, she loves to go on long walks, sing around the house, hangout with her family and two pet guinea pigs, and travel to new places.