Snapchat AI, known as ‘My AI’, is under investigation by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) over potential privacy risks, particularly to users aged 13 to 17. The preliminary enforcement notice issued by the ICO could result in a multi-million pound fine for Snap, the parent company behind Snapchat, or even force the shutdown of the ‘My AI’ feature in the UK.
The ICO launched an investigation into the tool, which was first introduced in spring 2023. This marked the first instance of generative AI being embedded into a major messaging platform in the UK. However, the ICO found that Snap’s risk assessment conducted prior to the launch of ‘My AI’ did not “adequately assess the data protection risks” to users, especially children aged 13 to 17.
Information Commissioner John Edwards stated, “The provisional findings of our investigation suggest a worrying failure by Snap to adequately identify and assess the privacy risks to children and other users before launching My AI”. He emphasized that organizations must consider the risks associated with AI, alongside its benefits.
In response to these provisional findings, Snap stated that it was “closely reviewing” them. The company asserted that ‘My AI’ underwent a robust legal and privacy review process before being made publicly available.
Snapchat has 21 million monthly active users in the UK, nearly half of whom are 24 years old or under. About 18% of UK users are aged 12 to 17.
The findings of the investigation are provisional at this stage, and Snap has been given until October 27 to make representations before a final decision is made. If a final enforcement notice is adopted, Snap might not be able to offer the ‘My AI’ function to UK users until it carries out “an adequate risk assessment”.
This investigation highlights the increasing scrutiny of tech companies and their handling of user data, particularly when it comes to younger users. As AI technology continues to evolve and become more integrated into our daily lives, ensuring user privacy and data protection remains a paramount concern.