p435-heckman - Put Your Best Face Forward: A nthropomorphic...

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Put Your Best Face Forward: Anthropomorphic Agents, E-Commerce Consumers, and the Law Carey E. Heckman Stanford Law School Crown Quadrangle Stanford, CA 94305-8610 (650) 725-7788 ceh @ stanford.edu Jacob O. Wobbrock Stanford Computer Science Department PO Box 5264 Stanford, CA 94309 (650) 325-2066 jrock@ cs.stanford.edu ABSTRACT Highly believable anthropomorphic agents endanger electronic consumers. Because of concerning tendencies in human-agent interaction arising from agents' anthropomorphic qualities, consumers may unwittingly treat agents as competent, trustworthy, living counterparts. This paper concludes that developers must focus agent design on consumer welfare, not technical virtuosity, if legal and ethical perils are to be avoided. 1. INTRODUCTION Anthropomorphic agents provide electronic commerce consumers with terrific benefits yet also expose them to serious dangers. Consumers are not fully aware of anthropomorphic agent capabilities and limitations. With surprising ease, overly trusting consumers may be persuaded to interact with anthropomorphic agents in a way that endangers them. Fraud and misrepresentation become easy. Much of the potential for consumer abuse can be traced to agents' special abilities. Proponents of anthropomorphic agents cite the benefits of social interfaces, natural and comfortable human- computer interaction, conversational communication, and user-to- agent delegation [22]. Others fear that users will waive their autonomy while partnering with these "intelligent" helpers [20]. The jury is still out on the ultimate costs and benefits of anthropomorphic interface agents. Debates over their eventual success continue [31]. The power of persuasion introduces additional legal and ethical questions. Consider an agent serving as a salesperson in an electronic commerce "store" [11]. The store's management will be legally accountable if they configure the agent to defraud or deceive consumers. But recent lawsuits against tobacco and firearms manufacturers suggest the agent's designers must act responsibly or face serious legal consequences as well. 1 It is no surprise that anthropomorphic agents may be created too well. Highly believable characters leveraging "humanness" will 1 E.g. Henley v. Philip Morris Inc., No. 995172 (Calif. Super. San Francisco Feb. 1999), appeal docketed, No. A086991 (Calif. Ct. App. 1st Div. Dec. 6, 1999) (tobacco); Merrill v. Navegar Inc., 75 Cal. App. 4th 500 (1999) (firearms) Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the filet page. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee.
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This note was uploaded on 02/24/2010 for the course COMM 4400 at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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p435-heckman - Put Your Best Face Forward: A nthropomorphic...

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