Meet Your New Data Rights Lawyer

by Bhanvi Satija

A robot lawyer will soon be able to file your data access requests on your behalf.

Unfortunately, it’s not a humanoid robot that walks around wearing a solicitor’s gown. Instead, it is an online chatbot called Yo-Da, short for Your Data, which will be available via website from June 2018.

“The website is under construction right now and we will be launching a beta trial in the month of June,” said Benjamin A. Falk, the co-founder of the chatbot.

Mr Falk has been working on developing the bot and raising funds for the same for the past three years along with his founding partner Edoardo Simone Paluan.

“Users will be able to log in to the website. After which they will need to upload an ID, because we need that to provide proof to the companies we are sending the request to. Then the bot will file the request on their behalf to whichever company the users want – Starbucks, Barclays, Spotify or even the London Tube. The companies then have 30 days as per the GDPR to send the users their data back,” explains Mr Paluan.

So, why is the bot called a lawyer?

“Under the new GDPR, these are legally valid data protection requests that our bot is executing. So normally one would nominate a lawyer to do this on their behalf,” said Mr Falk.

The new regulation has made it relatively simple for anyone to file a request to gain access to the data that an organisation holds on them. The process of filing the request is similar to that of filing a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.  

Mr Falk thinks that because the bot is free and hiring a lawyer is not, the service is bound to work. “We believe that a bot can do 90 per cent of the job with 2 per cent of the effort because of the way the legislation is written,” he said.  

Dr. Paolo Cavaliere, a professor of Digital and IT law at the University of Edinburgh said it is hard to predict whether the bot will be popular among consumers, since both the legislation and the service is relatively new.

“I think the service might have a positive impact in raising awareness about personal digital rights among consumers,” he said.

However, Ann Kristen from Cambridge University’s Faculty of Law said that the app doesn’t appear to have any relation to the new regulation.

“Machine learning apps like Yo-Da are gaining ground in the market but I think there should be some caveats. We should be mindful of companies like these, which position themselves as offering ownership rights, but their services have nothing to do with the new GDPR. In fact, looking at their website I can’t see that they are offering any strong data transparency or security to the individuals,” she said.

Featured Illustration by Philip Manuell

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