Snapchat, the popular social media platform, is facing scrutiny from the UK’s data watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), over potential privacy risks associated with its AI chatbot, “My AI.”
The ICO’s preliminary investigation has raised concerns about the chatbot’s impact on users, especially children, and it has warned that it might close down the feature in the UK. My AI allows users to engage in conversations with an AI-powered computer. It is an evolving feature, using ChatGPT technology to provide realistic responses.
While Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, claims to have conducted a thorough legal and privacy review before launching the feature, the ICO is particularly concerned about privacy risks for 13 to 17-year-old users.
The ICO’s findings are not final, but Snap must ensure My AI complies with data protection rules, including the Children’s Design Code, to continue offering the feature in the UK. My AI, described as an experimental and friendly chatbot, offers assistance with various tasks, but its capabilities may be imperfect.
Concerns also exist about whether young Snapchat users fully understand data collection implications, especially concerning their location data. The ICO’s investigation demonstrates its commitment to protecting privacy rights, emphasising the need for organisations to consider both the benefits and risks associated with AI features like My AI. Snap will have an opportunity to respond to the ICO’s concerns before a final decision is made. In case of serious breaches, the ICO can issue significant fines, making data privacy compliance essential for companies like Snap.
Snapchat’s popularity among young users raises concerns about their safety on the platform. While Snapchat developers have taken measures to ensure safety, it’s important for parents and users to understand certain aspects of the app.
Snapchat is intended for users over 13, but younger children can create accounts, potentially exposing them to unfiltered content and interactions that may encourage inappropriate behavior like sexting and cyberbullying.
One key feature to be cautious about is the Snap Map, which allows continuous location sharing with friends. While it can be fun for users to see their friends’ locations, it poses significant risks, including stalking, harassment, bullying, and physical threats.
Privacy is another concern, as Snapchat’s disappearing messages make it challenging to monitor conversations and information sharing. This can lead to impulsive sharing and a false sense of no permanent record, which is not always the case.
Snapchat is not immune to cyberbullying, and the platform’s disappearing content can make it difficult to track down bullies. Users can be bombarded with hurtful Snaps, leaving them vulnerable if they don’t know how to adjust privacy settings.
The pressure to share frequently on Snapchat, maintain Snapstreaks, or engage in challenges can lead to oversharing of personal information and unhealthy online behaviour. Lastly, without proper privacy settings, strangers can send Snaps or messages, enticing children to overshare. The platform’s location-sharing feature can also make it easier for predators to locate and target children.