Innovation

79% of Americans believe it should be illegal for AI to pose as human

Some 71% of Americans say brands should require explicit customer consent before using AI when marketing to them, according to a new report from SYZYGY.

Should AI chatbots be able to pose as humans? Nearly 80% of Americans said no, and advocate for a new "Blade Runner rule" that makes it illegal for AI applications such as social media bots, chatbots, and virtual assistants to conceal their identity and pose as human customer service agents, according to a new survey from SYZYGY.

Nine in 10 Americans said they believe the use of AI in marketing should be regulated with a legally binding code of conduct, and 71% said brands should require customers' explicit consent before using AI when marketing to them, the survey found.

"As the advertising and marketing industry expands its use of A.I. and develops more A.I.-powered technology solutions, we need to collectively develop ethical and operational guidance grounded in the attitudes, values and fears of the consumer," said Megan Harris, managing director of SYZYGY North America, in a press release.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

Overall, customer feelings toward AI being used in advertising are neutral: Only 28% of Americans said they would feel more negative toward their favorite brand if they discovered it was using AI instead of humans to offer customer service and support. And just 21% said they would feel negatively if they discovered an ad for their favorite brand was created by AI rather than humans.

Just 21% of Americans said they would have more negative views of their favorite brand if they discovered it had been using AI in its marketing campaigns to profile them.

These discrepancies may be due to the fact that general understanding of AI remains limited: Only 11% of Americans said they knew a lot about the technology. When asked to choose from 17 words that describe their feelings towards AI, "interested" was the top choice selected by 45% of US respondents, followed by "concerned" (41%), "skeptical" (40%), "unsure" (39%) and "suspicious" (30%).

Further, the majority of Americans said they expect that AI will have benefits, including saving time (40%), and making things safer (15%) and more useful (13%).

American's largest AI-related fear is that it will replace jobs, cited by 30% of respondents. Over the next five years, respondents said they believe that a machine could take over 36% of their individual job duties, the survey found.

The key message for brands is to use AI fairly and transparently, the report stated. Up to 79% of respondents said they would not object to AI being used to profile and target them in marketing efforts.

"This research reveals how consumers are conflicted when it comes to A.I. Many see advantages, but there are underlying fears based on whether this technology or the organizations behind it have their best interests at heart," Paul Marsden, SYZYGY's consumer psychologist, said in the press release. "Brands need to be sensitive to how people feel about this new technology. What we need is a human-first, not technology-first approach to the deployment of A.I."

SYZYGY laid out the following four guidelines for companies using AI in marketing:

1. Do no harm: AI technology should not be used to deceive, manipulate or in any other way harm the well-being of marketing audiences.

2. Build trust: AI should be used to build rather than erode trust in marketing. This means using AI to improve marketing transparency, honesty, and fairness, and to eliminate false, manipulative or deceptive content.

3. Do not conceal: AI systems should not conceal their identity or pose as humans in interactions with marketing audiences.

4. Be helpful: AI in marketing should be put to the service of marketing audiences by helping people make better purchase decisions based on their genuine needs through the provision of clear, truthful, and unbiased information.

Businesses should keep an eye on any legislation related to chatbots. If they preemptively alert customers that their chat functions are not run by actual human customer service representatives, they may gain more rapport and trust.

Want to use this data in your next business presentation? Feel free to copy and paste these top takeaways into your next slideshow.

  • Nearly 80% of Americans said it should be illegal for AI applications such as social media bots, chatbots, and virtual assistants to conceal their identity and pose as human customer service agents. -SYZYGY, 2017
  • 71% of Americans said brands should require customers' explicit consent before using AI when marketing to them- SYZYGY, 2017
  • 30% of Americans fear that AI will replace jobs. -SYZYGY, 2017
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Image: iStockphoto/Zapp2Photo

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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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