ethics of chatbots

22 Min Read

Written by


Published on

April 18, 2023

A fascinating new development in user interaction, content distribution, and machine learning is chatbots. To guarantee that the technology is applied responsibly and has an impact, ethical considerations, and problems must be taken into account, just like with any new technology. This is particularly true for systems with a “set it and forget it” approach, such as chatbots. If businesses that use machine learning are not attentive, these advancements could cause even more complications and terrible outcomes.

Chatbots are growing more clever and human-like in their interactions as artificial intelligence (AI) develops. However, they function using machine learning algorithms and lack human ethics. Inappropriate handling of chatbot development and use may result in troublesome circumstances.

To promote ethical bot development and use, we will look at the main ethical concerns and hazards associated with chatbots here. It is imperative to consider the consequences of disseminating information to the general public through a bot, as these responses are inherently restricted.

Introduction to the Ethics of Chatbots

The world is changing more quickly than it has in the past due to technological breakthroughs. Companies are using a range of technologies and procedures to better serve their customers and enhance their experience. Using chatbots driven by artificial intelligence is now one of the best methods to enhance customer care. Although there are undoubtedly many advantages to using chatbots, there are also ethical concerns because these systems have the potential to influence customers’ perceptions of an organization’s credibility.

A chatbot refers to a computer program designed to mimic and interpret spoken or written human communication, enabling people to engage with digital devices like that of real-world communication.

Chatbots are showing up more and more often in different contexts. A new study by Juniper Research projects that by 2025, the worldwide chatbot market will be worth $13.3 billion. The expanding use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, the growing acceptance of messaging platforms, and the growing need for customer service automation are some of the causes propelling this rise.

Since chatbots are being used more frequently in delicate contexts like customer service, healthcare, and education, it is critical to address ethical issues in chatbot creation and use.  It is crucial to make sure chatbots are utilized in a way that respects users’ privacy, is impartial and fair, and doesn’t cause harm to users.

  • Chatbots must be utilized appropriately since they gather a lot of data about their users, including demographics, behavioural patterns, and personal information that is important to businesses. Clear regulations for the collection, usage, and storage of user data should be in place for both chatbot developers and users.
  • Users may see unfair or discriminating results from chatbots due to their potential for bias. Users of chatbots should be conscious of the possibility of prejudice in chatbots, and chatbot developers should take action to reduce bias in chatbot design and development.
  •  Chatbots must to be created with user safety in mind, refraining from disseminating false information, endorsing dangerous goods or services, or mistreating people emotionally. Before implementing chatbots, developers should thoroughly test them to make sure they are dependable and safe.

Top 5 Ethics of chatbot

Everyone adhering to a mutually agreed-upon set of norms and rules is ensured by ethical behaviour. It makes sure that no one gets in trouble and gives everyone the chance to be treated equally. Threats from chatbots to national and personal security can be detrimental. Although the majority of users interact with chatbots for seemingly innocuous purposes, certain antisocial individuals may abuse the technology. Let’s talk about the Top 5 ethics of chatbot usage.

1. User Transparency and Data Privacy

Customers might not even recognize that they are speaking to an artificial agent rather than a real human customer support professional as the bots can be easily programmed to mimic human interaction to such an extent. The term “user transparency” describes the requirement that chatbots be open and honest about their strengths and weaknesses. In addition to being able to identify themselves as humans or chatbots, chatbots ought to be transparent about why they are interacting with users.  A good illustration is the Google Duplex system, which can carry out convincingly natural, human-like phone conversations for specific tasks like booking appointments. While adding this aspect of realness to the bot does help contribute to the ease and flow of the conversation, it is still important to ensure that the user is fully aware of the situation and does not feel deceived, as this can lead to distrust.

Chatbots frequently gather personal information from users, including names, email addresses, and past chat histories. Inappropriate data collection and use could lead to identity theft or even be used to hunt down and profile users. They store user data on servers that are online, suggesting that there is a chance that the data will be hacked or subject to other intrusions. If the information is not kept securely, unauthorized people may be able to access it and use it maliciously. Chatbots have a bias towards the data they are trained on and its developers. Users may experience unfair or discriminating results as a result of this prejudice. A chatbot trained on a collection of customer evaluations, for instance, would be more likely to provide positive responses to customers who are white and male.

Any information targeted to the public or the data subject must adhere to the principle of transparency, which calls for the use of clear, straightforward language, as well as when necessary, visual aids. The information must also be brief, publicly available, and easy to understand. GDPR’s rules and regulations can be considered as moves towards user empowerment. In terms of enhancing transparency, user rights can also be combined. According to the GDPR, gaining user consent depends in large part on transparency even before data processing occurs. “Concise, transparent, intelligible, and easily accessible” forms are required by organizations when requesting consent from users for data collection and processing or privacy terms and conditions.

Additionally, entities acting in the capacity of data controllers are required to notify users of the reason(s) or legal justification(s) for processing data, the types of personal information that are gathered, the potential recipients of the information, and the length of time that the information will be retained. Users who are impacted by a data breach must have open access to the incident’s specifics. Organizations are required by the GDPR to notify impacted users of data breaches so they can take the appropriate safety measures to protect themselves from the potential repercussions of a significant breach.

2. Chatbot Persona and Gender Bias

A chatbot persona is a chatbot’s personality, including its voice, tone, and behavior. A chatbot persona is an extension of a brand’s identity and can transform the chatbot experience from boring and robotic to exciting and engaging. By extending your brand identity, chatbot personas enable you to deliver consistent, high-caliber AI customer support across all platforms. Your chatbot will strengthen your brand identification by creating a persona, whether it is responding to inquiries from customers or striking up a discussion as part of proactive customer support. As chatbot designers, it is our responsibility to take care to prevent gender bias in the bot’s design. Furthermore, we must use caution when teaching the bot so that its behaviour is appropriate. The chatbot may exhibit racism, sexism, or the use of harsh words if it is not properly taught.

Gender assignment to chatbots brings up several ethical concerns.

  • Gender stereotype reinforcement: Chatbots that are assigned gender are frequently designed to adhere to preconceived notions about gender. Gender inequality may result from this and it may also serve to promote negative gender stereotypes.
  • Misrepresentation and deception: Users may be tricked into believing they are speaking with a human of that gender when chatbots are given a gender. Because consumers are more prone to trust and confide in chatbots they perceive to be human, this can be especially troublesome when chatbots are employed for customer service or assistance.
  • Data privacy and discrimination: Users’ gender and gender identity may be collected by chatbots that are given a gender. Then, this information might be used to target users with advertising or to discriminate against them.

AI can be gendered in several ways, including voice, appearance, and the usage of feminine pronouns or names. The default voices of home-based virtual assistants, including Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa, are feminine. These technologies, according to UNESCO, were made with “submissive personalities” and stereotypically feminine traits such as “helpful, intelligent, and intuitive.” However, because they were seen as “authoritarian and assertive,” male voices have historically been chosen for jobs involving teaching and instruction. This is demonstrated by the example of IBM’s Watson, who adopted a masculine voice while collaborating with doctors on cancer treatment. Google Assistant is the only one of these apps without a “gendered name,” however it has a female default voice.

Chatbot design has been significantly impacted by historical gender biases. Traditional gender preconceptions are sometimes reflected in the way chatbots are created; for example, female chatbots are typically programmed to be more courteous and obedient, whereas male chatbots are more forceful and self-assured. Several unfavourable outcomes may result from this, including:

  • Reinforcing gender stereotypes: Users may be exposed to gender stereotypes while interacting with chatbots that are programmed to adhere to them. Since they are still forming their own gender identities, children and young people may be especially vulnerable to this.
  • Limiting the capabilities of chatbots: The functionality of chatbots that are built to adhere to gender norms may be restricted. For instance, a female chatbot with submissive programming might be less likely to be able to answer complex questions or provide helpful assistance.
  • Gender stereotyped: Users who do not identify with gender stereotypes may feel alienated from chatbots that are programmed to follow them. For instance, customers seeking a more sympathetic or perceptive chatbot may find a male chatbot designed to be pushy and off-putting.

Apart from these adverse outcomes, past gender prejudices have also contributed to a deficiency of diversity in chatbot design groups. This implies that those who create chatbots frequently lack a thorough awareness of the range of human experiences.

Finding the places where the policy gap on gender biases in AI manifests itself is crucial. Biases may arise from the methods used to gather, store, and process data since algorithms are greatly impacted by the data they employ. Since AI tends to mirror the ingrained preconceptions and prejudices of its software programmers, another potential source is the person developing the algorithms and the guidelines the AI is operating under.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Gender Gap Report, only 31% of leadership positions globally are held by women and workplace gender parity is declining. It is crucial to steer clear of gender bias and stereotypes when developing chatbots for several reasons.

  •  It can result in people being given false and misleading information.
  • Negative gender roles and preconceptions in society can be reinforced by gender bias and stereotypes in chatbots.
  • Users may become irate and hostile towards chatbots due to gender bias and preconceptions.
  • The development of the chatbot itself may be negatively impacted by gender bias and stereotypes. Biassed or stereotyped chatbots may have a lower chance of being trusted or used by users. This may restrict the possible uses of chatbots and impede their advancement.

3. Training and Behavior of Chatbots

It takes proper training to keep chatbots from using offensive language, racism, or misogyny. Large volumes of data are used to train chatbots; if this data includes abusive or biased language, the chatbot is likely to pick it up and use it itself.

Several measures can be taken to guarantee that chatbots are appropriately taught to abstain from using racist, sexist, or abusive language. These consist of:

  • Permit a variety of perspectives: According to Fischer, ethical tech entails both transparency and tolerance for a range of opinions. A chatbot should be trained using a dataset that is as varied as possible, with information from individuals with varying racial, gender, sexual, and socioeconomic backgrounds. This will make it easier for the chatbot to learn how to respectfully and inclusively engage with individuals from many walks of life. Employers must assemble diverse teams and test algorithms on a varied sample size to avoid disturbing results that amplify the unconscious biases of a monocultural workforce.
  • Create contextual and use-case-specific chatbots: By developing chatbots that are use-case-specific and contextually appropriate, businesses may lessen bias. Domain-specific chatbots, or chatbots designed for a particular purpose, include the World Health Organization’s WhatsApp bot, which gives users trustworthy information about COVID-19, and Bank of America’s Erica, which assists customers with money management.
  • Filtering the training data for bias and offensive language: The training data should be filtered for bias and offensive language before it is used to train the chatbot. This can be done manually or using automated tools.
  • Monitoring the chatbot’s performance: Once the chatbot is deployed, it is important to monitor its performance to ensure that it is not displaying racism, sexism, or abusive language. This can be done by collecting feedback from users or by conducting regular audits of the chatbot’s responses.
  • When teaching the bot, we must exercise caution to make sure it responds correctly. The chatbot may exhibit racism, sexism, or the use of harsh words if it is not properly taught. This is exactly what happened to Microsoft’s Tay bot, which was developed for Twitter and whose replies were determined by the way users engaged with it. Tay responded to the abusive tweets that several people had been making about the bot by mimicking the same tone in its responses. More efficient training of the bot—for example, by employing supervised learning to guarantee the caliber of training data and enhance the predictability of the generated responses—can stop this kind of behaviour.

The quality of chatbots depends on the quality of the training data. Chatbots with both deep learning and machine learning models are intended to make conclusions based on historical data, improper training can cause issues. It is critical that your data is accurate and clean if you want your AI model to succeed. For the model to produce the most accurate predictions, you must make sure that your training data set has enough amount of variability. For it to train efficiently, you must also make sure that you have an adequate amount of tagged data.

4. Communication and User Abuse

The problem of communication and user abuse should be taken into account while creating and implementing chatbots. Chatbots ought to be made with safe, polite communication in mind, and they should not be abused by users. Because chatbots can produce writing that seems human, they could be used for malevolent objectives like distributing false information or taking on personas. It’s critical to put protections in place to stop this kind of misuse and to hold technology abusers responsible.

When managing user abuse in chatbot conversations, there are several ethical factors to take into account. These consist of:

  • shielding the user from injury. This entails shielding the user from hurtful words or actions and fostering a sense of security and support.
  • recognizing the motivation behind the user’s abuse. This encompasses a variety of elements, including mental health concerns, irritation, and fury. It is possible to take action to address the root problem once it has been identified. The degree of the abuse should determine how severe the response to it should be. A chatbot shouldn’t be designed, for instance, to react angrily or threaten someone in response to little criticism.
  • avoiding taking revenge on nasty users. This is refraining from using harsh words or behavior, and avoiding taking punitive measures such as banning the user from using the chatbot.
  • Escalating to a human If the chatbot is unable to handle the abuse on its own. This could be done by transferring the user to a live chat agent or by sending an email to a customer support team.

Negative effects on user behaviour and social norms may result from passively tolerating abuse in chatbot conversations.

On user behavior:

  • Users may become more tolerant of abuse in other situations as a result of normalizing it.
  • Users may become discouraged from reporting abuse as a result.
  • Users may experience hopelessness and helplessness as a result.
  • Users’ confidence and sense of self-worth may be harmed.
  • Users may become less engaged in social relationships, both online and off.

On societal norms:

  • It might imply that mistreatment is appropriate.
  • It may make it more challenging for abuse victims to come out and ask for assistance.
  • It has the potential to reinforce negative perceptions about particular social groupings.
  • It might reinforce a fear-based and silent society.

Negative effects on user behaviour and social norms may result from passively tolerating abuse in chatbot conversations. It is possible to train chatbots to recognize and highlight offensive words in user input. Machine learning techniques can be used to search the text for terms and phrases that are frequently linked to abuse in order to do this. The chatbot can limit the user’s interactions with the chatbot, encourage positive interactions, warn the user or escalate the matter to a human, and more when it detects abusive language.

Additionally, pleasant user interactions can be facilitated by the design of chatbots. This can be achieved by moderating user interactions, giving users the opportunity to engage in pleasant relationships with one another, and using encouraging language and rewards.

5. Emotional Support and Mental Health

The phrase “mental health” describes one’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It has an impact on behaviour, perception, and thought processes. Consciously expressing affection and caring for one another through words and nonverbal cues is known as emotional support.

Although chatbots have the capacity to offer users invaluable emotional assistance, they also have a big ethical burden to bear. It’s critical to develop and employ chatbots in a way that safeguards users’ welfare and enhances their mental health.

Important moral issues to be aware of while developing chatbots that offer emotional support:

  • Before utilizing a chatbot for emotional support, users should be made aware that they are engaging with one another and expressing their agreement.
  •  Chatbots ought to offer reliable and secure information regarding mental health issues and available treatments. Additionally, chatbots ought to be made so that they don’t hurt users by, say, inciting self-harm or suicidal ideas.
  •  Chatbots ought to safeguard users’ confidentiality and privacy. Therefore, chatbots shouldn’t gather or share users’ personal information without their consent.
  • Chatbots should be monitored by human professionals to ensure that they are providing safe and effective emotional support.

Empathy and compassion are crucial traits for chatbots to possess. They can support chatbots in strengthening their user interactions and helping them comprehend and respond to users’ requirements more effectively.

Ideas for showing empathy and compassion when interacting with chatbots:

  • Cold or robotic language should not be used by chatbots. Rather, they ought to speak in a kind, welcoming manner that exudes concern and care.
  •  Chatbots ought to react to the questions and requests of users. They must also pay attention to the wants and feelings of the users.
  •  Chatbots ought to be patient and empathetic when users make mistakes or behave rudely. They ought not to be critical or judgmental.
  •  Chatbots ought to provide users who are depressed or hopeless with assistance and encouragement. They ought to help users to identify and achieve their goals.

Woebot is a mental health tool that answers every need for mental health care and breaks down the systemic constraints that block equal access to it. It is designed by humans, powered by AI, and grounded in science, Woebot easily integrates with health systems to provide evidence-based behavioral health solutions that get people off a waitlist, and onto a path to feeling better. Woebot uses brief daily chat conversations, mood tracking, curated videos, and word games to help people manage mental health.

Woebot is a chatbot that helps people manage their anxiety and sadness by applying cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approaches. After inquiring about a user’s emotions, thoughts, and actions, Woebot offers tailored advice and encouragement. In addition, Woebot can assist users in recognising and disputing bad ideas, creating coping strategies, and establishing objectives for growth.

Clinical investigations have demonstrated the efficacy of Woebot in mitigating symptoms of depression. According to a study that was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, college students’ depressed symptoms could be reduced by Woebot just as well as by conventional CBT.

Future Implications of Chatbots

Chatbots will soon have conversations that resemble those of real people because to developments in NLP and ML. Chatbot interactions will feel more organic and interesting to users, which will increase user satisfaction. The work economy is starting to change as a result of the rapid advancements in automation and artificial intelligence. Although chatbots have many advantages, there are worries that they could replace workers in some jobs as a result of their acceptance. With the help of machine learning and natural language processing, chatbots can converse with users in a way that is similar to that of a human, respond to their questions, and help them. It is an invaluable tool for a variety of businesses, including customer service, e-commerce, and content creation, due to its capacity to comprehend and react to spoken language. Businesses have adopted chatbots because they can improve consumer experiences, streamline operations, and reduce costs.

The customer care sector is one where the use of chatbots is most evident. Chatbots are capable of responding to a variety of consumer queries, from simple inquiry to intricate problem-solving. Because chatbots are able to operate continuously around the clock and deliver prompt responses, automation increases efficiency. As a result, companies can lessen their reliance on a sizable workforce of human customer care representatives, especially for regular and repeated duties. The advancement of chatbot and automation technologies has given rise to valid concerns around job displacement. As businesses depend more and more on AI-driven chatbots to handle consumer interactions, contact centre operators and customer service personnel in particular may encounter difficulties. There may be less need for some low- to mid-skilled customer service positions as a result of this development.

Some jobs will be created or improved as businesses use automation and artificial intelligence, but many more will probably disappear. Artificial intelligence, automation, and associated technologies are instruments that ought to be employed to enhance human existence and means of subsistence.

  • Systems and processes are redesigned to benefit from automation, yet human talents and abilities are still used to bridge technical gaps. For example, in Amazon’s warehouses, robots handle basic heavy lifting duties like moving full bins, while employees handle tasks requiring dexterity and flexibility, such picking and packing goods.
  • Automation aims to promote new kinds of human-machine interaction that enhance human skills rather than marginalise or replace people with machines. In Toyota’s production lines, labourers initially make things by hand, coming up with new ideas and streamlining procedures along the way. Machines don’t take over until the process is mastered.

Even while these systems go beyond cost effectiveness, they are usually still motivated by corporate measures that ignore the workforce’s broader implications as well as the advantages and disadvantages of automation for society.

Some key ethical considerations are:

  • Employers must to be open and honest with employees regarding their automation goals and how they can affect employment. Employees should be involved in the decision-making process on the implementation of automation and given adequate notice to prepare for the changeover.
  •  Companies should give employees the chance to retrain and upskill so they can move into new positions. This could entail offering cash help in addition to training and support.
  •  Employers are responsible for making sure automation is applied fairly and equally. This is refraining from discriminating against specific worker categories, such as those who are older or have impairments.
  •  Employers are responsible for making sure that workers’ safety and wellbeing are protected during the shift to a more automated workforce. That may involve providing workers with adequate support and resources to adjust to the changes.
  • Employers should consider the social impact of automation, such as the impact on communities and the environment. Employers should take steps to mitigate any negative impacts of automation.

The ethical considerations surrounding workplace automation centre on striking a balance between productivity and the effects on human labour. Despite all of automation’s advantages, ethical issues with algorithmic prejudice, worker welfare, economic injustice, and job displacement must be addressed. Organisations may negotiate ethical hurdles and build a future where automation and human workers coexist peacefully by embracing a human-centric strategy and putting responsible automation practises into place.


Employers should consider the social impact of automation, such as the impact on communities and the environment. Employers should take steps to mitigate any negative impacts of automation. A fast developing technology, chatbots have the potential to completely transform a lot of parts of our life. But there are also other ethical questions that are brought up by the growing use of chatbots. Users must have confidence that their communications with bots will be kept confidential and safe.

When engaging with users, chatbots should respond with a certain amount of empathy and tact, and their creators must take care to prevent any gender prejudice in the bot’s design. In the event that a chatbot is not properly taught, it may exhibit racism, sexism, or use of abusive language; in such a situation, the developer must take responsibility.

By offering round-the-clock assistance, promptly and effectively responding to inquiries, customising the user experience, offering a handy and approachable means of interacting with businesses, and streamlining and streamlining activities, chatbots have the potential to greatly enhance user experiences. We may anticipate seeing even more creative applications of chatbots to enhance user experiences as they develop and become more sophisticated.

It is crucial to remember that the topic of chatbot ethics is intricate and constantly changing. With the increasing sophistication and capabilities of chatbots, new ethical quandaries will surface. It is critical to recognise these difficulties and collaborate in order to create moral standards for the appropriate creation and application of chatbots.

About Author



Content Marketing Strategist at

Unlock Seamless Communication Across All Channels

Experience the future of Customer Communication with Our Omnichannel Platform

Join thousands of businesses elevating Customer Engagement with Our All-in-One Messaging Solution.