Today’s Cache | Chatbots and mental health; Google infringed patents; Tech companies allege unfair cloud practices

Updated - June 22, 2023 08:06 pm IST

Published - June 22, 2023 02:25 pm IST

A file photo of a  mobile chat with a chatbot.

A file photo of a mobile chat with a chatbot. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

(This article is part of Today’s Cache, The Hindu’s newsletter on emerging themes at the intersection of technology, innovation and policy. To get it in your inbox, subscribe here.)

Chatbots and mental health

The increasing use of mental health chatbots powered by AI, due to stretched resources, is proving to be a double-edged sword. While some mental health counselors say that chatbots might simulate empathy when dealing with users, it’s not the same as real human empathy, a 2023 study by the American JAMA internal medicine journal found that bots’ answers were rated “significantly higher for quality and empathy” compared to that of physicians.

Apart from empathy, privacy, and protection remain major risks for users with a Mozilla researcher describing chatbot apps as “data-sucking machines with a mental health app veneer” and that they could share personal information with third parties.

Google infringed patents

Alphabet-owned Google was ordered to pay $15.1 million for infringing two patents related to audio software owned by Personal Audio LLC, a Delaware federal jury said in a verdict. Google was found to have wilfully infringed patents in its music app, Google Play Music, which could lead to a judge increasing the award by up to three times the verdict amount.

Google, on its part, said it was disappointed with the verdict and that it concerns a “discontinued product” and would not affect customers. The company plans to appeal against the verdict.

Tech companies allege unfair cloud practices

Technology trade groups including Google have griped to the Federal Trade Commission about alleged unfair practices in the cloud, including by Microsoft. Companies, including Google, alleged that vendors use anti-competitive practices in order to entrench their position by preventing customers from switching providers.

The allegation came in response to the U.S. agency’s request for information on security issues and competition in the lucrative market for data storage and computing power in the so-called cloud.

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