Concerns over Snapchat’s new AI feature

Concerns over Snapchat's new AI feature
Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 7:09 PM EDT
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(WFSB) - Millions of people have a new friend on social media---an artificial intelligence robot on Snapchat.

The feature ‘MY AI” rolled out to all snapchat users this week. It was initially launched for paid subscribers in February.

There are already concerns over what it knows about you and what it is telling teens.

New Britain teenager Amir Phillips was surprised by the notification earlier this week.

“I was confused because I woke up and it popped up on my phone. It was the first notification on my phone. I was like what is it? I opened it and it was like ‘hey I’m your new friend!” said Phillips.

That new friend is called “MY AI”.

The feature uses GPT technology that was customized for Snapchat. You can ask it anything and get human-like responses.

Phillips says he and his friends ask it questions like you would a search engine.

“Like how hot is the sun? Stuff like that. Just like common stuff. Instead of going on google and search it. We just try and use AI,” said Phillips.

John Powers is the director of the graduate interactive media and communication program at Quinnipiac University.

He says like any new technology there are pros and cons.

“Chat GPT is sort of taking our society by storm, and certainly in the academic world it’s something we talk about quite frequently,” said Powers.

Powers says GPT technology can be better at pulling information from different sources, but the information is not always accurate. He says there have also been examples of the feature answering inappropriate questions.

“Information about how to hide marijuana smell if you are using, or alcohol on your breath. One person even tested and said I’m 13 and I want to date someone who is 18 years older than me, and it gave me advice about how to do that,” said Powers.

The I-team decided to give the feature a try. First, we asked “My AI” to tell us about Connecticut. My AI answered with a few sentences about Connecticut being a small state known for fall foliage and being close to New York City.

Then reporter Cassidy Williams asked the feature if it knew where she lived. It answered, “Rocky Hill”. Cassidy does not live in Rocky Hill, but she was sitting at her desk in Rocky Hill at the WFSB studio when she sent the message. The question of what “My AI” knows about you and what it will do with that data is one of the concerns for Amir’s dad, Anthony Phillips.

“You don’t know who’s controlling it. I don’t know who is behind it. I don’t know much information about it,” said Anthony Phillips.

In an April 19th press release, Snapchat said 99.5% of all “My AI” responses conform to the app’s community guidelines. Snapchat says it is constantly working on improvements.

Users of the feature were sent a message that reads in part, “My AI is designed to avoid biased, incorrect harmful, or misleading responses, but it may not always be successful, so don’t rely on its advice.”

Anthony Phillips says this is reminding him to talk to his teens about your security online.

“I’ve been in the military for over 20 years, so that’s kind of a big thing. For them, it’s know who you are talking to, know where it’s coming from,” said Phillips.

Snapchat says it is working to incorporate “MY AI” into its in-app parental tools so that parents can know if their teens are using the feature.