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Google Now Says Controversial AI Caller Will Identify Itself to Humans

Google CEO Sundar Pichai introduced Duplex earlier this week in the company's annual developer's conference Google I/O and demonstrated how the AI system could book an appointment at a salon

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Google's new Search feature gives single result to certain queries. Pixabay
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In a bid to deliver transparency in technology and stay ahead of ethical pitfalls, Google has said that its Artificial Intelligence (AI) calling system “Duplex” would now identify itself while making appointments.

Following the launch of the “Duplex” system, which lets AI mimic a human voice to make appointments and book tables, among other functions, a widespread outcry over the ethical dilemmas were raised by tech critics.

Google clarified to The Verge that the experimental system would have a “disclosure built-in” that means that whenever Duplex gets involved in some type of verbal communication with a human at the other end, it would identify that the human is talking to an AI.

“We understand and value the discussion around Google Duplex, as we have said from the beginning, transparency in the technology is important,” a Google spokesperson was quoted as saying.

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Google. Pixabay

“We are designing this feature with disclosure built-in, and we will make sure the system is appropriately identified. What we showed at I/O was an early technology demo, and we look forward to incorporating feedback as we develop this into a product,” the spokesperson added.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai introduced Duplex earlier this week in the company’s annual developer’s conference Google I/O and demonstrated how the AI system could book an appointment at a salon and a table at a restaurant.

In the demo, the Google Assistant sounded like a human. It used Google DeepMind’s new WaveNet audio-generation technique and other advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP) to replicate human speech patterns.

Also Read: A Smarter Assistant to Offer 6 New Voices

However, tech critics raised questions on the morality of the technology saying it was developed without proper oversight or regulation.

According to tech critic Zeynep Tufekci, the demo was “horrifying” and the initial positive audience reaction at I/O was evidence that “Silicon Valley is ethically lost, rudderless and has not learned a thing”.

Google had originally said in a blog post written by engineers Yaniv Leviathan and Yossi Matias that “it’s important to us that users and businesses have a good experience with this service and transparency is a key part of that”. (IANS)

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Google Shuts Down ‘Censored’ Chinese Search Project

Google had earlier launched a search engine in China in 2006 but pulled the plug in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech and block websites

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A Google logo is displayed at the entrance to the internet based company's offices in Toronto. VOA

Facing widespread criticism over its “censored” Search engine for the Chinese market, Google has reportedly shut down a data collection system that was key to develop the search project code-named “Dragonfly”.

According to a report in The Intercept on Tuesday, the move comes after hundreds of Google employees raised internal complaints that the project had been kept secret from them.

The report found that Google employees, working on the Dragonfly project, “had been using a Beijing-based website to help develop blacklists for the censored search engine”.

The website www.265.com is a Chinese-language web directory service which Google bought in 2008 from a billionaire Chinese entrepreneur.

“265.com provides its Chinese visitors with news updates, information about financial markets, horoscopes, and advertisements for cheap flights and hotels,” said the report.

“As The Intercept reported in August, it appears that Google has used 265.com as a honeypot for market research, storing information about Chinese users’ searches before sending them along to Baidu,” the report added.

Google engineers working on Dragonfly obtained large datasets showing queries that Chinese people were entering into the 265.com search engine.

“Members of Google’s privacy team, however, were kept in the dark about the use of 265.com,” said the report, quoting sources.

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Google shuts down ‘censored’ Chinese Search project: Report. VOA

Now, the teams working on Dragonfly are no longer gathering search queries from mainland China.

“Significantly, several groups of engineers have now been moved off of Dragonfly completely, and told to shift their attention away from China to instead work on projects related to India, Indonesia, Russia, the Middle East and Brazil,” the report claimed.

Google was yet to comment on the report.

Last week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told a US House Judiciary Committee that the company had “no plans” to launch a search product in China.

In November, Google employees wrote in an open letter to the company that their “opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be”.

Also Read- Madhya Pradesh Waives off $5.3Bn in Farm Debt

“Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions,” they wrote.

Google had earlier launched a search engine in China in 2006 but pulled the plug in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech and block websites. (IANS)