Is DeepText Facebook's own privacy-killing, machine learning bot?

DeepText can scan your private messages and statuses, in order to suggest actions such as booking a cab and formatting a post. It can also automatically filter content on the basis of user preferences. You know what this means? The end of privacy!

By Adamya Sharma Published Date
02 - Jun - 2016
| Last Updated
03 - Jun - 2016
Is DeepText Facebook’s own privacy-killing, machine learning bot?

If you ever thought your messages and statuses on Facebook are for you and your friends to read and enjoy, you were wrong! Facebook has always been listening to your conversations. It knows where you shop, what you eat, your reading preferences and your browsing behaviour. Why do you think the moment you Google the name of a smartphone you may want to buy, it appears as an ad on your Facebook feed? This is called targeted advertisement. Afterall, Facebook does need to make money, right?

Taking their learnings of user behaviour to the next level, Facebook has now introduced what they are calling the ‘DeepText: Facebook's text understanding engine’. Basically, it’s Facebook’s own bot which will keep a hawkeye on anything and everything you write on Facebook.

Say you write “I need a cab” on Facebook Messenger. Facebook will ask you if you want an Uber. If you write “I want to sell my car” on your status bar, Facebook will give you options to create a sale post. If you have posted a new product for sale, it can automatically format your post with the price of the product along with other product details. This is DeepText, “a deep learning-based text understanding engine that can understand with near-human accuracy the textual content of several thousands posts per second, spanning more than 20 languages.”

According to Facebook, DeepText can perform word level and character level learning by leveraging deep neural network architectures. Apart from normal written language, DeepText can also understand slang. The social media giant wrote in a post, “With deep learning, we can instead use “word embeddings,” a mathematical concept that preserves the semantic relationship among words. So, when calculated properly, we can see that the word embeddings of “brother” and “bro” are close in space. This type of representation allows us to capture the deeper semantic meaning of words.”

Now comes the scary part, Facebook says, “DeepText is used for intent detection and entity extraction to help realize that a person is not looking for a taxi when he or she says something like - I just came out of the taxi, as opposed to - I need a ride.” I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t want a to sell my private messages to cab aggregators, or have Facebook sell them for me. Infact, I don’t want Facebook screening my private messages at all. This opens up a pandora’s box of privacy issues. Facebook is already in the middle of a class action lawsuit because of screening personal messages. Wonder how users will take to DeepText.

While DeepText would also help Facebook prevent abusive posts and block them before they are posted, Facebook is also training the AI to understand intent jointly from textual and visual inputs. So, not only will it be combing through any text you input on Facebook, it will soon peep into your images. Now, do you wish you didn't share private photos with your boyfriend/girlfriend on FB Messenger?

All we have to say is that Facebook’s DeepText engine seems like a great step forward in artificial intelligence, but at the same time, it’s a big step backwards when it comes to user privacy. 

Adamya SharmaAdamya Sharma

Adamya Sharma sits among boys all day long listening to geek talk and wondering what the hell is she doing with her life.