A new feature on Snapchat called “My AI” (My Artificial Intelligence) has piqued a ton of interest in the tech world lately. But when it comes to younger kids who make up a considerable portion of the app’s user base, the update has parents on edge over its potential safety risks.
On its website, Snapchat describes the new feature as “an experimental, friendly chatbot” that users of all ages can enjoy. It’s essentially an OpenAI-powered bot intended to improve the in-app experience by helping users navigate it more easily and offering recommendations in private chats that are started by the user.
“In a chat conversation, My AI can answer a burning trivia question, offer advice on the perfect gift for your BFF’s birthday, help plan a hiking trip for a long weekend, or suggest what to make for dinner,” the website shares. “My AI is there to help and to connect you more deeply to the people and things you care about most.”
According to Snapchat, you can even give My AI a nickname of your choosing and tell it all about your likes and dislikes, which will help it get to know you better. The app’s CEO, Evan Spiegel, recently told The Verge that the feature is “an awesome creative tool” that’s helped him create unique bedtime stories for his kids and even offered gift recommendations for his wife’s birthday.
While all of that sounds pretty cool, not every Snapchat user has been a fan. In fact, TechCrunch reports that there was recently a spike in 1-star reviews for the app — with most critics panning the My AI feature and even calling for its removal.
“Snapchat has been reliable, easy to use, and a nice break from how overwhelming and bombarding apps like Instagram feel these days,” wrote one reviewer on Google Play. “However, the introduction of an AI feature, that you cannot opt out of, isn’t what I’m looking for whatsoever. Please at least give your users the option of opting out of such features instead of forcing them on us. Not every app needs AI just because it’s trendy right now. The point of social media, at least for me, is about connecting to other HUMANS.”
“I do not want the ai,” another reviewer added. “I want it gone and there’s no way for me to get it to disappear. I’ve done everything thay Google suggested. Please if anything fix the ai thing. I want no part in that.”
The new feature first launched in February but only to select users within Snapchat’s paid subscription service. It wasn’t until last week that the app announced it would start rolling out My AI to all 750 million users — whether or not they wanted it. However, the not-so-positive reviews have already put a damper on its unveiling.
The biggest issue seems to be about managing the feature’s intrusive nature. Because while users have long been able to mute or block other chats in the messaging portal, there’s simply no option to do this with My AI, which is now pinned to the top of their inbox. (You can, however, hide the chat.)
This is where the worry for parents comes into play — because with no way to remove the feature or fully monitor it, they’re essentially left in the dark about how their child might be using the app. According to Fortune, My AI also makes the app fully aware of a user’s location while using it, which is another aspect that doesn’t sit well with parents. But it’s unclear whether or not the app will recognize a user’s age and, if so, whether or not the AI responses will be appropriate.
At a time when the skepticism surrounding AI is only growing louder — and the public seems increasingly worried about giving their privacy — Snapchat’s new feature has definitely struck a chord. Time will tell if any tweaks to the app will make users feel more safe with it or if this one will wind up getting tossed out.
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