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Snapchat insists its AI-powered chatbot is not collecting ‘new location information’

Snapchat said to “offer more transparency for our community”, its team had made updates to My AI. File picture: Dado Ruvic Reuters

Snapchat said to “offer more transparency for our community”, its team had made updates to My AI. File picture: Dado Ruvic Reuters

Published Apr 29, 2023

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Snapchat insists its AI-powered chatbot is not collecting “new location information” from users.

It posted a blog on its capabilities after some posted online about it “secretly” tracking their movements, with some branding it “creepy” and saying it had left them “freaked out” after it had apparently decided to change their Snapchat settings such as turning on ghost mode.

The company, which wants to use AI and augmented reality to boost engagement, said: “Last week we announced that My AI, our AI-powered chatbot, is rolling out to our Snapchat community. It’s been exciting to watch Snapchatters’ early reactions, and we’re grateful for their feedback to further improve My AI.

“We wanted to clarify the ways that My AI may use Snapchatters' location information.

“It’s important to know that My AI does not collect any new location information from Snapchatters. As detailed in our support page, the chatbot only has access to a Snapchatter’s location if they’ve already granted permissions to Snapchat (which also makes it possible to share their location on Snap Map.)”

The company added that to “offer more transparency for our community”, its team had made updates to My AI that clarify “when it is aware of a Snapchatter’s location, and when it isn’t”.

It also said: “Privacy is a foundational value for us – it is critical to our core use case of helping people visually communicate with their friends and family.”

The firm did admit that when a Snapchatter uses My AI for the first time, they receive a notice “explaining that it may use information they share with Snapchat to personalise responses”.

It also added: “My AI shares personalised location recommendations with you in response to your requests only if you’re sharing your location information with Snapchat.

“If you do choose to share your location with Snapchat, My AI has the ability to use Snapchat’s knowledge of where you are and the places around you to provide useful place recommendations to you when asked.

“For example – if you have shared your location with Snapchat and ask My AI, ‘What are good Italian restaurants near me?,’ it can return suggestions nearby from the Snap Map.”

It has been reported this month’s top two posts on the Snapchat subreddit on Reddit, which is home to more than 330 000 members, are of users asking how to remove the bot from the app.

According to its privacy policy, Snap determines users’ precise location by using methods that include GPS, wireless networks, mobile towers, wi-fi access points and other sensors in devices including smartphones, such as gyroscopes, accelerometers and compasses.

The data is used to power features such as Snap Maps, which virtual maps where your contacts are located.

The only official way to get rid of Snapchat’s AI bot is to pay £3.99 (about R92.00) for a monthly subscription to Snap’s premium service, Snapchat+.

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