Review date: May 10, 2022


Mozilla says

People voted: Not creepy

Welcome to the brave new world of mental health AI chatbots. Woebot, started in 2017 by psychologists and AI-researchers from Stanford, describes itself as "a choose-your-own-adventure self-help book that is capable of storing all of your entries, and gets more specific to your needs over time." Welp, the future is here, for better or worse. What exactly does therapy by emotional AI algorithm look like? Users download Woebot and the chatbot starts asking questions. Things like "How are you feeling?" and "What's going on in your world right now?" Woebot then uses "natural language processing, psychological expertise, excellent writing, and sense of humor to create the experience of a friendly informative conversation."

Based on reviews we saw in the app stores, some people feel more comfortable talking to a bot than a real person. And others found long wait times or high costs kept them from talking to a real person, so this free chatbot was what they turned to instead. At least one study has shown AI chatbots can be successful in reducing anxiety and depression. And investors dropped around $100 million in the company recently, so it seems AI chatbots are here to stay. What does the privacy of Woebot look like? Well, when we first reviewed Woebot we had some concerns. However, after we published our review, Woebot updated their privacy policy and made some changes to better clarify how they protect their users' privacy. We still have some concerns, but with their updated privacy policy, not as many as before.

What could happen if something goes wrong?

How good are AI chatbots -- like Woebot--that you share all sorts of personal and emotional information with at protecting privacy? That's a very good question. One of the biggest risks with AI chatbots is keeping the information you share with them during your conversations secure. That means making sure no one else can read the contents of the conversations you have with the bot. But AI algorithms need to learn to get better at chatting with you. So when Woebot (or any AI chatbot) says they are "keeping previous chats in mind to provide the most beneficial and timely therapeutic suggestions," what does that mean? According to Woebot, that means they review de-identified portions of conversations and compare the AI-suggested path to the path chosen by the user to retrain their algorithms. Here's hoping those de-identified conversations are truly de-identified.

We do know Woebot says all your communications are encrypted both in transit and at rest, which is good. Something we, and other experts, always worry about is racial, gender, and cultural bias making their way into AI algorithms. This would not be good for a therapy app. Does Woebot have a bias issue in their algorithm? We sure hope not. But we also can't tell. This isn't unique to Woebot though. We generally can't determine if there is bias in any proprietary AI algorithm. It's also good to remember that while your personal chats with a human therapist are covered by strict health privacy laws like HIPAA, your personal chats with an AI chatbot aren't always similarly protected. Woebot does say that they "treat all user data as Protected Health Information and adhere to all HIPAA and GDPR requirements."

How does Woebot's privacy policies look to us? We have a few concerns. Woebot says they can collect personal info like name, email, IP address, "inferences drawn from other personal information to create a profile about a consumer," and the information you give them in your conversations. They also say they can "obtain information about you from other sources, including through third party services and organizations to supplement information provided by you." So, Woebot can collect a good deal of personal information, add to the information you give them with even more information gathered from third parties. Then they say they can share some of this information with third parties, including insurance companies and a seemingly broad category they call "external advisors." They also say in their privacy policy they share some of your information, such as identifiers and network internet activity, with marketing partners for advertising purposes. We were a little confused by this because they also state in their privacy policy, "We never, ever sell or share your data with advertisers." Those two statements seem in conflict to us.

Finally, Woebot says they aggregate or de-identified your personal information, including location and device information, and share it with third parties. This is a pretty common practice but we also must remind you that it has been found to be pretty easy to de-anonymize such data, especially if location data is included.

What's the the worst that could happen with Woebot? Hopefully nothing. But, what if the previous chats they keep in mind to provide you more beneficial therapeutic suggestions end up not being completely de-identified because you mentioned your dog HuskerDoodle in them and no one else has a dog named HuskerDoodle and that chat conversation gets leaked and the world knows all about your relationship with HuskerDoodle? OK, so this isn't likely to happen. Still, it's a good reminder that anything you share on the internet isn't 100% secure, that chats that are de-identified could, potentially, be re-identified under some circumstances, and Woebot is a for-profit company as well as your helpful mental health friend. Their own privacy policy states, "Unfortunately, no system is 100% secure, and we cannot ensure or warrant the security of any personal data you provide to us. To the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, we do not accept liability for unintentional disclosure." That's a good reminder to be careful out there folks.

Tips to protect yourself

  • Don't connect your app to any social networks like Facebook.
  • Don't allow the app access your location.
mobile Privacy warning Security A.I.

Can it snoop on me? information


Device: N/A

App: No


Device: N/A

App: No

Tracks location

Device: N/A

App: No

What can be used to sign up?

What data does the company collect?

How does the company use this data?

Woebot does not sell users' data. Their privacy policies says they can share identifiers and internet network activity with marketing partners for advertising purposes.

Woebot's privacy policy states, "Advertising- or Targeting-Related. We may use first party or third-party Technologies to deliver Woebot relevant content, including ads relevant to your interests, on our Services or on third-party websites."

Woebot may share personal data with third parties. These third parties include service providers, program partners, administrative authorities (tax or social security authorities), financial institutions, insurance companies, police, public prosecutors, regulators, external advisors.

Woebot says they may obtain additional personal information about your from third parties and other sources, including social networking sites. One purpose for obtaining that personal information is to enhance their ability to provide you with information about their business and products.

Woebot says, "Most of the personal data we process is obtained from you when, through the application you register for a Woebot account and exchange messages with Woebot. Other types of personal data may be obtained from third parties (such as Google Analytics) to enrich and continuously improve the user experience."

How can you control your data?

After we published our review of Woebot on April 20, 2022, Woebot updated their privacy policy on April 28, 2022 to clarify the concerns we had about how users can control their data.

Woebot's privacy policy now states, "Your data is yours. Anyone who uses Woebot can access, correct, delete or restrict their own data. You can share as much or as little as you like, and you can opt out of emails, texts or push notifications."

Woebot also edited their privacy policy in their April 28, 2022 revision to clearly state, "Anyone who uses Woebot, regardless of where they live or are physically located, can access, correct, delete or restrict their own data. You may also have various rights under data protection legislation in your country (where applicable). That means if your country gives you even more rights, we will also uphold those rights, too."

We appreciate this update and because Woebot has now clarified clearly that all users have the same rights to access and delete data, we have removed our privacy ding from Woebot in this section.

Woebot says users can instantaneously delete their data and close their account by typing ”delete my data” to Woebot. They can also request to delete their data through email or mail. Users can request a copy of their data through the app, email or mail.

What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?


No known privacy or security incidents discovered in the last 3 years.

Child Privacy Information

Woebot is not directed to children under 13 (or other age as required by local law), and we do not knowingly collect personal data from children The app has a content rating of "Teen" in the Google Play store.

Can this product be used offline?


User-friendly privacy information?


Links to privacy information

Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards? information




All data is encrypted both at rest with AES-256 or better and in transit with TLS 1.2 or better.

Strong password


Security updates


Woebot has a scheduled monthly patching cycle.

Manages vulnerabilities


Woebot says they respond to emergency vulnerabilities. They test the security of design by performing and remediating findings of penetration tests, vulnerability assessments, internal compliance reviews and more. To report a security vulnerability, Woebot says users can message them directly in the app, email [email protected], or use their contact form.

Privacy policy


Does the product use AI? information


Woebot says they are "keeping previous chats in mind to provide the most beneficial and timely therapeutic suggestions."

According to Woebot, this means they periodically review de-identified portions of conversations and compare the AI-suggested path to the path chosen by the user. When these paths diverge, they retrain their algorithms using the additional de-identified data to help Woebot’s conversational ability improve and learn.

Is this AI untrustworthy?

Can’t Determine

What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?

Therapeutic suggestions

Is the company transparent about how the AI works?


Woebit follows the FDA design control documentation which requires explicit description of the product and its methods of delivery, including transparency of the AI algorithms and how they ensure safety for users.

Does the user have control over the AI features?


Yes, the AI helps recommend conversation paths that might be most beneficial for the user, but the user is always given the choice of what path to follow.


The Chatbot Therapist Will See You Now
Finding the time and money to pay for talk therapy sessions is out of reach for many, so a chatbot could be a helpful stopgap for psychiatry. But Woebot’s creators believe it has the potential to actually improve on human therapists.
Privacy Concerns About Emotional Chatbots
Despite their efficiency and potential for commercial deployment, emotional chatbots may also pose numerous risks, including ethical issues, information security threats, and privacy concerns. In this article, we will only focus on privacy concerns raised by emotionally intelligent chatbots.
Something Bothering You? Tell It to Woebot.
NY Times
Woebot, which was introduced in 2017, is one of only a handful of apps that use artificial intelligence to deploy the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy, a common technique used to treat anxiety and depression. Woebot aims to use natural language processing and learned responses to mimic conversation, remember past sessions and deliver advice around sleep, worry and stress.
I spent 2 weeks texting a bot about my anxiety — and found it to be surprisingly helpful
Business Insider
There are apps that replace the traditional psychiatry office with texting, and chat rooms where you can discuss your problems anonymously online. The newest of these tech-based treatments is Woebot, an artificially intelligent chatbot (and recently launched app) that uses the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT — one of the most heavily researched clinical approaches to treating depression.
Pooling Mental Health Data with Chatbots
Cambridge University Press
A recent peer-reviewed study showed that the program highlighted in this chapter, “Woebot,” can significantly reduce depressive symptoms in two weeks of regular use. Some therapy chatbots have also been able to predict the onset of panic attacks or depressive episodes based on patterns in user behavior. A key feature of therapy chatbots is their ability to improve over time by drawing insights from the ever-growing pools of information they receive from their conversations with users. The potential for good seems significant.
Dramatic growth in mental-health apps has created a risky industry
The Economist
Customers’ “emotional data” can be hacked, and no one is checking if the apps work.
Woebot – the bleeding intelligent self-help therapist and companion
Harvard Business School Digital Initiative
Users can improve their mental health significantly through Woebot with the following benefits: (1) the app is free (or, perhaps soon, with a small fee), (2) accessible with immediate access 24/7 in your home, (3) without the cumbersome barriers to taking the “first step” to seeking help, (4) without the fear of being judged by your venting partner, and lastly -although disturbingly still an issue- (6) without the potential stigma and judgment that comes with seeing a therapist.
Do Mental Health Chatbots Work?
Chatbots are a viable and seemingly effective method for getting mental health services via your device. The most obvious benefit is convenience, or what some people refer to as “reducing barriers to therapy.” Indeed, the AI platforms that were reviewed (Woebot and Wysa) were very convenient. You can reach out to these clever bots and get help at any time with little commitment.
The wellness industry’s risky embrace of AI-driven mental health care
The Brookings Institution
If you need to treat anxiety in the future, odds are the treatment won’t just be therapy, but also an algorithm. Across the mental-health industry, companies are rapidly building solutions for monitoring and treating mental-health issues that rely on just a phone or a wearable device. To do so, companies are relying on “affective computing” to detect and interpret human emotions. It’s a field that’s forecast to become a $37 billion industry by 2026, and as the COVID-19 pandemic has increasingly forced life online, affective computing has emerged as an attractive tool for governments and corporations to address an ongoing mental health crisis.
I actually Kind of Love My Chatbot Therapist
We last checked in with Woebot when it was just a baby chatbot, operating within Facebook Messenger and sporting a $39/month price tag. But now the robot therapist is free, has its own app, and has proven surprisingly helpful on days I’m feeling shitty.
Your AI Chatbot Therapist Isn’t Sure What It’s Doing
Among the most popular CBT therapy apps is Woebot, a cheerful chatbot designed to deliver the principles of CBT through a series of conversation-based interactions and exercises. Though Woebot has been proven to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in a peer-reviewed study sponsored by the company, founder and clinical research psychologist Alison Darcy takes care to avoid framing Woebot as a replacement for human therapists.
Mental health chatbot Woebot gets $90m boost
Silicon Republic
Irish-founded tech company Woebot Health has raised $90m in Series B funding, bringing the total investment in the company to $114m. The company hopes to use the investment to expand its services to meet rising global demand for mental health care post-pandemic.
This mental health app wants to improve your mood
Creative Bloq
As we'll discover in this tutorial, Woebot is really simple to use, and because it's free there's no downside to trying it out. We think it does a good job of helping you explore your feelings, and of introducing you to concepts, techniques and tools that you can use to make positive improvements.
Making Mental Health Radically Accessible: A Conversation with Allison Darcy, Founder and President of Woebot Health
AI fund
Meet Woebot, an AI-powered chatbot that uses cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) principles to help people manage their mental health. The brainchild of Dr. Alison Darcy, Woebot is a major step towards achieving her goal of making quality mental healthcare available to all.
I bonded with a quirky robot after chatting to it about my fears
New Scientist
Depending on your perspective, Woebot is an odd digital assistant with feelings or an automated conversational agent. Either way, I’m finding that it makes me feel better – and it might work for you too.
Mental health chatbot Woebot could be adapted to tackle substance use
A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) shows initial support for a new version of Woebot – a text-based chatbot app designed to address mental health issues – that is designed to reduce substance use and other measures tied to substance use disorder.


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