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Will the EU’s tough new data law impact your business? Ask this bot

A bot that helps companies understand Europe’s GDPR is just the latest to offer legal information in a natural language interface.

Will the EU’s tough new data law impact your business? Ask this bot
[Illustration: Shendart/iStock]

If you’re confused about whether your non-European business is still affected by the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation, a new smart bot might be able to help.

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Launched by the international law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, the free-to-use bot called Parker can walk you through a questionnaire to help you figure out if the regulation will affect your organization. Affected businesses are required to comply with the regulation by May 25 or potentially face fines of up to 20 million euros or 4% of annual global turnover, whichever is greater, for the most egregious violations.

For companies that might be subject to GDPR, the bot guides clients to human experts.

“Critically, non-EU businesses are subject to the GDPR depending on the scope of their activities in Europe,” Nick Abrahams, the firm’s global head of technology and innovation said in a statement. “Parker quickly and intuitively answers standard questions in relation to the new EU data protection rules, enabling clients to take action where needed.”

A previous version of the bot offers guidance on an Australian data breach notification law that went into effect in February. Within a day of its December launch, it had more than 1,000 conversations about the law, according to Norton Rose Fulbright.

The GDPR bot is easy and simple: It functions like a checklist, helping the user determine whether the law applies to them—and then pointing them to a human “about what you need to do.” Attempts at more robust conversation with the bot yields error messages.

In one sense, it’s only the latest method that legal firms and consultants have devised to find new clients amid a rush by companies to improve their data practices. (A Google or LinkedIn search reveals that the GDPR has spawned a gold rush for data protection experts—including, as one industry executive told Digiday, “plenty of charlatans.”) But Norton Rose Fulbright isn’t the first organization to offer legal information through a bot, an interface that’s become more prevalent with the rise of messaging tools like Facebook Messenger and Kik, as well as voice-powered systems like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. A company called DoNotPay offers chatbots that can help you challenge parking tickets in cities around the U.S. and in the U.K.


Related: This Chatbot Will Take Your Harassment Claims To HR Anonymously

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Other bots can help users navigate landlord-tenant law, fill out common forms or locate a flesh-and-blood lawyer to help them with more complex questions. A nonprofit called mRelief also uses a text-message questionnaire to help users quickly learn if they’re eligible for food stamps and, if so, how to apply. Proponents of legal chatbots often say they can help save time and money for people with basic legal questions and can be less intimidating than consulting with a human lawyer or pouring through pages of reference materials.

“We believe that legal chatbots have extensive applications for our clients, many of whom have expressed a strong interest in exploring and developing these technologies to help address their most pressing business needs,” Abrahams said in his statement.

Naturally, Norton Rose Fulbright offered a reminder, too: Its human lawyers are available for GDPR-related advice above and beyond what the bot can provide.


Related: What is GDPR, and why should designers care?

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About the author

Steven Melendez is an independent journalist living in New Orleans.

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