Chatbot That Helped Beat $4 Million In Bogus Parking Tickets Now Handling Asylum Applications
from the small-solutions-for-larger-problems dept
Last year, 19-year-old UK student Josh Browder released a chatbot called “DoNotPay” that assisted drivers in challenging parking tickets. It was a small program with a huge upside. The bot’s legal guidance — in the form of yes/no questions — resulted in more than $4 million in tickets being dismissed.
Chatbots are no replacement for lawyers, but almost no one seeks legal help when dealing with parking tickets. That’s probably why law/traffic enforcement agencies feel comfortable issuing so many bogus ones. DoNotPay not only saved UK residents millions of dollars, it also proved the ticketing system was fundamentally broken. More than 64% of the 250,000 tickets challenged were overturned.
Browder was hoping to apply his chatbot AI to other legal issues — narrowly-focused areas where legal help might be appreciated, but without the chance of severely screwing up someone’s life if the chatbot led someone down the wrong path.
Browder’s next challenge for the AI lawyer is helping people with flight delay compensation, as well as helping the HIV positive understand their rights and acting as a guide for refugees navigating foreign legal systems.
It’s the last one on the list receiving attention this year. Immigration law is an incredibly-dense legal thicket where wrong moves can mean finding yourself stranded in a country that doesn’t want you or forcibly returned to the country you’ve been trying to leave. Brower’s chatbot — running through Facebook messenger this time — isn’t going to put immigrants in awkward positions, though. Instead, it’s much more in line with DoNotPay: something that provides helpful assistance to make an often-confusing experience easier to tackle, but without the potential downside of someone wishing they’d spoken to an actual lawyer instead.
The chatbot works by asking the user a series of questions, in order to determine which application the refugee needs to fill out and whether a refugee is eligible for asylum protection under international law.
After this, it takes down the necessary details required for the appropriate asylum application – an I-589 for the United States or a Canadian Asylum Application for Canada. Those in the UK are told they need to apply in person, and the bot helps fill out an ASF1 form for asylum support.
If the program fails, nothing is made worse. The person seeking asylum is still stuck in the country they’re trying to leave, but they’re not sitting in a customs holding cell awaiting deportation. (At least, one hopes not. The best case scenario would be to apply for asylum before arriving, rather than after.)
Browder is also doing everything he can to protect users. The information obtained to autofill applications is only stored long enough to be transferred and deleted within 10 minutes of the app’s use. The chatbot can also put users in touch with legal representation if requested.
This bot’s success will be much more difficult to enumerate, but it’s building on Browder’s past successes. Since the debut of DoNotPay, Browder’s legal assistance bots have helped UK citizens obtain reimbursement for delayed planes/trains and helped homeless individuals seek emergency housing.