Google is now rolling out a creepy “Smart Reply” feature on Android phones which reads text messages you just received and gives you suggestions on how to respond.
That’s right, if you’re an Android user, Google is now analyzing texts people send you and gives you “recommended” responses based on what it thinks you’ll say given the context of the conversation and even your current location, which is how the feature previously worked on Google Mail.
Apparently Android is OPTING IN users into the service without their prior permission:
It seems that this feature originated on Google Mail and is now making its way to text messaging.
According to a February article by Android Authority:
Smart Reply is an AI-based feature that runs within the app. It scans the message you are replying to and takes into account other factors like your current location, what’s in your Google Calendar, the time of day, and even the weather, and then suggests applicable replies that you can tap and automatically fill in.
For example, if you are replying to an email that includes the phrase “Is Tuesday good for you?” Smart Reply will scan your calendar, see that Tuesday is totally open, and then make suggested replies, like, “Tuesday works for me,” or “Let me get back to you.”
Google’s internal incubator, Area 120, is working hard to incorporate this functionality into chat apps such as Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Android Messages (for all carriers), Skype, Twitter DMs, and Slack. The newly announced project is simply called “Reply” and will be initially available to Android users.
It’s hard to conceive why Google thinks people need this feature given that the suggested responses are short answers which wouldn’t take long for users to type themselves, especially with the current “auto-complete” texting technology.
It’s almost as if Google just wants to scan your text messages and this gives a plausible “reason” to do so. Notice, for example, how it mentions you “can’t edit these replies,” even if they’re way off base:
It’s just another example of how Big Tech firms feel entitled to our private, digital data – and if we have a problem with it, we’re expected to go out of our way to “opt out” of the data collection.
This attitude is consistent with Google’s deep ties to the intelligence community.
According to Quartz’s Jeff Nesbit:
Two decades ago, the US intelligence community worked closely with Silicon Valley in an effort to track citizens in cyberspace. And Google is at the heart of that origin story. Some of the research that led to Google’s ambitious creation was funded and coordinated by a research group established by the intelligence community to find ways to track individuals and groups online.
The intelligence community hoped that the nation’s leading computer scientists could take non-classified information and user data, combine it with what would become known as the internet, and begin to create for-profit, commercial enterprises to suit the needs of both the intelligence community and the public. They hoped to direct the supercomputing revolution from the start in order to make sense of what millions of human beings did inside this digital information network. That collaboration has made a comprehensive public-private mass surveillance state possible today.