New Charlie Virtual Meeting Assistant App – a Privacy Nightmare?

charlie virtual assistant accesses your email
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Meet Charlie, the Virtual Meeting Assistant app. The Charlie app’s site says that with Charlie you will “make a killer impression on whoever you’re meeting,” and Business Insider claims that Charlie “wants to give everybody the perks of a personal assistant.”

But here at the Internet Patrol, we have some serious reservations about Charlie and your privacy. In fact, we think that Charlie wants to stick his electronic nose where it doesn’t belong.

According to the article on the Charlie virtual assistant app at Business Insider, entitled Meet ‘Charlie,’ A Virtual Assistant That Emails You A One-Page Cheat Sheet With All You Need To Know Before Your Next Big Meeting, “By syncing with your Google Calendar, Charlie helps prep you for any upcoming meetings.”

Business Insider goes on to explain that “Charlie takes a look at who you’re meeting with and then conducts extensive research on them, the company they work for, and any competitors. It then sends you a one-page cheat sheet with all the important details an hour before your meeting so you can walk in prepared and confident.”

The Business Insider article, which includes quotes from Charlie CEO Aaron Frazin, also mentions that Charlie conducts ‘research’ by “pulling information from over 100,000 sources,” and searching through Google News, LinkedIN, Facebook and Twitter.

But here’s something interesting: nowhere in the article, nor anywhere else that we could find, is it disclosed that Charlie also accesses all of your email.

Signing up for Charlie Virtual Assistant App:

signing up for charlie virtual assistant app


Charlie would like to view your email messages:

charlie virtual assistant accesses your email

Now, speaking as an Internet policy lawyer (because, hey, I am one), I have to say that not only do I have serious concerns about this from a general privacy perspective, but from a legal perspective there is an argument to be made that as soon as you give a third party access to what would otherwise be considered privileged or confidential as between two people, you run the risk of that confidentiality or privilege being capable of being broken.

In this digital world it’s often harder for people to envision that, but imagine if you had your human assistant or associate reading your email, and then someone demanded your email in a lawsuit or other legal action. If you have let your assistant read it, that has opened the door for a claim that you have waived or allowed a breach of that privilege.

Would that be a compelling argument in a claim that allowing Charlie – the virtual assistant – access to your email amounted to the same thing?

Yes, I think it would. Any time you let a third party into your private business, you open the door to such a claim.

Now, you may consider it worth the risk – we don’t.

You can read more about (and get) Charlie here, but remember, you’ve been warned.

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