The founder of a company that uses artificial intelligence to help people fight parking tickets online is using a similar model to help people take on another adversary: Equifax.
Joshua Browder said he decided to create a free online chatbot over the weekend when he realized Equifax customers weren’t taking advantage of small-claims court at the state level. Instead of hiring an expensive lawyer and joining a class-action suit that could take years to resolve, people could “empower themselves,” he said.
Using the chatbot, he said, suing Equifax for thousands of dollars takes minutes, maybe less.
“I want to make the law free for all consumers,” he said, noting that his long-term goal is to “upend” the legal profession. “Lawyers are charging huge amounts of money for doing very little, so I decided to launch a product that will make all small-claims litigation free.”
Browder — a computer scientist who has been dubbed the “Robin Hood of the Internet” — is the brains behind the bot that has successfully challenged almost 400,000 parking tickets for drivers in London, New York City and Seattle. The DoNotPay bot launched in all 50 states over the summer and offers services free.
Browder said he is one of the victims of the hack of Equifax’s security systems, which gave criminals access to sensitive information of up to 143 million American consumers who may be subject to identity theft. The company revealed the breach Thursday, despite learning about the hack July 29.
That information included access to Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers and credit-card numbers — a treasure trove of data considered “the crown jewels of personal information,” John Ulzheimer, an independent credit consultant who previously worked at Equifax, told the Associated Press.
Browder has another word for the breach: a “disgrace.”
The hack has provoked dozens of lawsuits in federal court in recent days, at least one of which accused the company of securities fraud, according to Reuters. Browder said people who sign onto any class-action lawsuit should still be able to pursue litigation in small claims court.
Browder’s chatbot functions by asking the user basic questions like their state of residence, phone number, Zip code and address.
“I am looking forward to helping you fight corporate incompetence,” the bot says at one point.
After receiving users’ personal information, the bot retrieves the appropriate paperwork for taking Equifax to court for that user’s jurisdiction. The bot fills out the paperwork for the user, but it must be signed and delivered in person to the small-claims court in the user’s jurisdiction. Using his chatbot, Browder said, the online portion of the lawsuit takes “about 30 seconds.”
At the moment, Browder noted, only residents of California and New York can use the program, but he expects to expand it to the other 48 states within a matter of hours Tuesday.
“I think that the legal system really does need to get simpler for people,” he said. “The good thing about the small-claims filings is that the chatbot does most of the paperwork for you. Equifax can’t intimidate you, and they can’t force you to pay legal costs because lawyers aren’t allowed in some states, and they aren’t cost-efficient in others.”
Scott Nelson, an attorney with the advocacy organization Public Citizen, remained skeptical about the bot’s usefulness, telling the Verge that prevailing in small claims court is more complicated than filing paperwork.
“I am not inclined to think it would be a panacea,” he said. “Filing and winning a small-claims case takes more than just filling in a form.”
After consulting with lawyers, Browder said, he’s convinced that people who pursue Equifax in small claims court will discover that the proceedings are favorable to their cause.
“In all 50 states there are very clear negligence laws, and these local judges are very reasonable,” he said. “If you go in and show real harm and your forms show negligence, then there’s no reason that a local judge won’t agree with you.”