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UK data watchdog warns Snapchat about risks associated with AI chatbots

Snapchat finds itself in the crosshairs of the UK’s data privacy watchdog over its AI chatbot, “My AI,” which has raised concerns about its failure to adequately address privacy risks.

The social media behemoth, Snapchat, is now facing a stern warning from the United Kingdom’s data regulatory body regarding its recent foray into artificial intelligence (AI). Specifically, the warning pertains to “My AI,” a chatbot developed by Snapchat, as disclosed in an official update from the regulatory authority.

On October 6th, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK issued a preliminary notice to Snap Inc. and its subsidiary, Snap Group, which collectively oversee Snapchat’s operations. This notice centers on their alleged negligence in conducting a thorough assessment of the privacy risks associated with “My AI.”

This preliminary notice stems from an ongoing investigation conducted by the ICO, which has highlighted the inadequacies in identifying and mitigating the privacy risks associated with “My AI.” These risks extend to millions of users, including minors aged 13 to 17, who may have been exposed to unforeseen privacy vulnerabilities due to the chatbot’s launch.

John Edwards, the Information Commissioner for the UK, emphasized the significance of considering the risks that AI technologies pose, alongside their potential benefits. He underscored the ICO’s commitment to safeguarding the privacy rights of UK consumers and revealed that the preliminary enforcement notice demonstrates their resolve in this regard.

According to the notice, should a final enforcement notice be issued, Snap may be compelled to cease data processing related to “My AI.” Such an action would render it impossible for the company to offer the service to users based in the UK without undergoing an “adequate” risk assessment. However, it is important to note that a conclusive decision should not be drawn at this stage of the ongoing investigations, as per the ICO’s statement.

Snapchat initially introduced its AI chatbot to Snapchat+ users in the UK in February 2023, with wider availability beginning in April of the same year. Powered by OpenAI’s cutting-edge GPT-4 technology, “My AI” is recognized by the data watchdog as the “first instance of generative AI integration into a major messaging platform in the UK.”

In response to the ICO’s preliminary notice, a spokesperson from Snap has reached out to Cointelegraph, stating the company’s commitment to closely reviewing the regulatory concerns. The spokesperson affirmed the company’s dedication to safeguarding user privacy and highlighted the rigorous legal and privacy review process that “My AI” underwent before its public release. They also expressed a willingness to collaborate with the ICO to ensure the adequacy of their risk assessment procedures.

Throughout the year, prominent social media platforms have been integrating AI features into their operations. On October 4th, LinkedIn, the business-focused social media platform owned by Microsoft, unveiled additional AI tools for recruiters and introduced an AI assistant within its learning center. Likewise, tech giants Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, and Google have also disclosed plans to incorporate AI chatbots into their service offerings.

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