Since moving from Snapchat+ subscribers to the general public, “My AI” –– a BitMoji-like chatbot that answers questions in user inboxes –– has gone from a fun and innovative use of OpenAI’s ChatGPT technology to a feature worthy of the virtual guillotine (So says the people.)
According to TechCrunch, the global rollout of My AI has resulted in an unprecedented spike of 1-star reviews: “Over the past week, Snapchat’s average US App Store review was 1.67 with 75% of reviews being one-star…For comparison, across Q1 2023, the Snapchat average US App Store review was 3.05, with only 35% of reviews being one-star.”
And according to Apptopia, AI was mentioned almost 3,000 times in the week after My AI went public, with Snapchat receiving almost 3 times more one-star ratings than usual on April 20, the day after My AI went global.
Yikes. So what’s wrong with these little AI-generated chatbots? What has the people all riled up?
I think it has something to do with being unable to remove My AI from your inbox. There are threads on Twitter full of people obsessed with figuring out how to delete the My AI feature, with some asking the chatbot to block itself, or deciding to delete the app entirely.
In other words, the feature, and therefore generative AI, has been forced upon Snapchatters in a move by the company to compete and/or stay relevant with other tech and social media players in integrating the controversial technology
“Snap users are highly connected to the app, with many using it as their primary platform for personal interactions,” states Andrew Hutchinson from SocialMediaToday. “With this in mind, you can see why the random insertion of My AI is an annoyance, while some users have also raised concerns about the AI element itself, and the amount of information that it’s been able to reveal about their location, personal details, etc.”
Hutchinson notes that people don’t want much more in their private messaging than chatting with friends and colleagues (you know, real people). Meta, he adds, has been dealing with the same backlash after messing around with people’s private messaging in WhatsApp and Messenger since introducing brand-focused bots and games.
“Ads in message streams are intrusive, and the addition of other functionalities has also seemingly been viewed as an unwanted distraction from their more personal communications,” he says.
Not only is My AI forced upon its users with no way to get rid of it, but multiple reports show how invasive and unchecked it truly is.
Even though TheVerge originally predicted that the feature wouldn’t get Snapchat into too much trouble, due to its supposed adherence to the company’s trust and safety guidelines, The Washington Post reported that the AI suggested how to mask the smell of alcohol and pot to a 15-year-old, and told a 13-year-old user how to set the mood when losing their virginity.
Other users have complained about My AI tracking them geographically, providing location-based results when they have their Snap Maps turned off, then claiming not to know their location after Snap users call the AI out.
What it comes down to –– and tech giants have screwed this up time and time again –– is privacy. Generative-AI not only scares people because of its jaw -dropping ability to complete human tasks (and therefore threaten jobs and livelihoods), but its undying reliance on our data.
Being constantly surveilled has become a reality for everyone, but people don’t want to be reminded of that fact -- especially in online spaces designated for private conversation, with no clear option to opt out.