clock menu more-arrow no yes

Facebook is using AI in private messages to suggest an Uber or remind you to pay a friend

Facebook Messenger is expanding its AI assistant, M, to all U.S. users.

The Town With Britain's Highest Youth Unemployment Rate. Christopher Furlong / Getty

Facebook wants to use artificial intelligence to help improve your private messages.

Messenger, Facebook’s standalone messaging app, will now use artificial intelligence to suggest things to users based on their private conversations.

The feature — which Facebook says is a version of its personal assistant technology called M — can do things like suggest you book an Uber or prompt you to send money to a friend based on whatever it is you’re talking about.

This is not a full version of M, which is still in beta and is primarily powered by humans. But it’s a version of M that Facebook says is self-sufficient and can detect language well enough to automatically make helpful suggestions that are meant to improve your messaging experience.

“The system learns from the things you like to do and you don’t like to do,” explained David Marcus, Facebook’s head of messaging products, in an interview with Recode. “If you don’t use the things that are being suggested for a specific use case, gradually those things will go away.”

The idea of an AI bot reading all of your private messages may be off-putting to some. Marcus said that messaging content is not used to target users with ads, and that while the AI can learn your preferences, “no human ever touches” the data the AI collects. “These are private conversations and we take this very seriously,” he added.

It’s clear Facebook wants this to feel helpful, not invasive.

AI assistants are clearly the future for these giant tech companies. Facebook has been testing a similar technology, called Deep Text, in Messenger already, though it did not provide as many suggestions as this new version of M does. Google, too, has a messaging app with a built-in AI assistant called Allo that it launched last fall. And Amazon has its voice-controlled assistant, Alexa.

Facebook Messenger’s new features are rolling out to all iOS and Android users in the U.S. beginning Thursday.


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

Sign up for the newsletter The Weeds

Understand how policy impacts people. Delivered Fridays.