One of the features Google included in the massive Gmail update it released a few months ago was the “Smart Reply” feature that was already available in its mobile app. With Smart Replies, you can quickly answer an email by selecting one of the three responses Google suggests. However, those machine-generated responses have a tendency to be pretty annoying for people who never use them, and Google will finally let you turn off the feature on the Gmail website in the coming weeks.
Google explained to The Wall Street Journal that the Smart Replies are drawn from a growing library of phrases that a bot identifies as relevant after analyzing billions of messages. Yes, that means Google is reading emails to train the bot, but the company also said that it “will keep privacy and security paramount,” and that no other resources are used to generate responses. For example, Google won’t also look at Calendar information before offering a Smart Reply suggestion to an email that may have something to do with one of the parties’ calendars.
Google shared some hilarious suggestions from the early days of the feature. The algorithm often identified the “Sent from my iPhone” phrase, which is found at the end of many emails these days, as a popular response. The bot also had “a propensity to respond with ‘I love you’ to seemingly anything” in early tests. But Google fixed both of those issues.
The report also notes that Smart Compose, a feature similar to Smart Reply that predicts sentences as you type, will be available by default in Gmail later this month. While you’ll be able to opt out of the Smart Reply feature soon, it looks like Smart Compose isn’t getting the same option. Either way, nobody really forces you to use any of the Smart Replies that Google offers, or use the Smart Compose suggestions. So just ignore them and do your thing.