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Lybrate launches Messenger bot; privacy concerns?


Doctor directory and clinic management system Lybrate has launched a chatbot on Facebook Messenger, reports Firstpost. The bot lets users ask questions, get health tips and take a health quiz, and can be accessed by simply adding Lybrate on Messenger.

The bot provides users with examples like ‘I’m 25 years old, 75 kg, 5.10 ft and want to lose weight’, as questions to ask for getting relevant answers. However, when we typed in “I’m 30 years old and 90kg, how do i get thin?’, the bot provided links on how to gain weight! Additionally, the app seems to make no use of all the data provided to it, as the linkback was a generic answer on its Quora-like, health-related, question answer platform.

Similarly our second statement to the bot “I have diabetes” resulted in the bot returning a questions about a female suffering from the disease for 15 years. While this is partially more useful than the first answer we got, we would have still expected the platform to at least guess our sex and age from Messenger, or consider it from the previous question we asked. Overall, users are probably better off simply using Google Search for now.

The platform also provides health tips, which included articles like ‘homeopathic treatments for your skin’, and a quiz section which asks users multiple choice questions.

Who owns the data?

Despite Lybrate not really using the data users enter, it encourages users to reveal their age, weight, height, medical conditions etc., which can easily be associated with the real user’s Facebook account. We did not find a way to delete this data, and we expect Lybrate will continue to have the data even if we deleted our Facebook account. Lybrate claims that information obtained by all its users will remain anonymous, however, the company does not make it clear for what it will use the data for.

As more and more services jump on the ‘bot’ bandwagon, privacy will become more of a concern. Currently most services require account creation, and data deletion is usually an extension of when the user stops using the service and deactivates or deletes their account. With chats, the data is usually owned by both parties, in this case letting bot makers keep account associated data forever. As of now, Facebook does not provide a clear way to view the terms & condition or policies on data collection of the bots users chat with. Chats can also pick up a lot more data. In two sentences, Lybrate would know my name, age, height, weight, and possible medical condition, even if I didn’t have an account, and nothing stops it from keeping this data forever.

Also read: Facebook opens bot development on Messenger; are apps irrelevant?

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