Google has recently introduced a new feature called “Spam Protection” as part of the text messaging service of Android devices.
While previously it was emails and phone calls that were the main mode of spam delivery, spam text messages have become increasingly prevalent. Spam filters for emails have been around for a while and more recently, Android’s spam caller filter made it possible for spam phone calls to be sent straight to voicemail.
Now, it is Android’s messaging app which is gaining the technology, which will be a relief for users who regularly receive spam messages.
According to Android Police, Google has been working on this project for over six months and is now releasing the technology in a gradual server-side roll out. Though it is not yet available to all users, a broader rollout is expected in the coming months.
If you are one of the few to receive the new technology on your Android phone, a notification will appear when you access your messages: “New! Spam protection.” If you do not want to keep this feature on your phone or have privacy concerns, you then have the option of manually disabling it by going to Advanced Settings and toggling off “Spam Protection.”
On the other hand, if you choose to keep it, in the event that your device receives a spam message, you will be sent a warning informing you that the unread message in your inbox is spam. This will enable you to delete the message without opening it.
How Does This Spam Protection Feature Function?
Though Google has made no public announcement—details of the application were originally seen in a section of Google’s messaging support page which was inadvertently made live—it appears that the feature uses statistical analysis to identify the likelihood of a message being potential spam through correlating sender details with recognized spam messages.
It appears that the feature also pays attention to your standard day-to-day messaging and temporarily stores details of your regular correspondence in order to more easily identify out-of-the-ordinary messages.
Should We Be Concerned over Privacy Issues?
This is a machine-learning based application with no human interface, which is reassuring from a security perspective as the application does involve intercepting messages before they are delivered to your inbox. However, Google maintains that there is no cause for concern with regard to privacy as the only information that the application accesses is the sender details.
All identifying features of the message, such as the content and the user’s phone number, are removed. On the other hand, if you manually label a message as spam, the contents of that message will be used for identifying other potential spam messages. If you do have privacy concerns, you can easily disable the feature once it becomes available on your device. However, it will then be up to you to discern whether a new message is spam and whether or not it is safe to open.
It’s hard to say how successful the application will be once the full rollout is complete. However, protecting users from spam is a necessary component of software providers in this day and age, especially since in the U.S. market, unsolicited commercial texts are classified as illegal. As such, this technology could be seen as a reasonable and inevitable next step for shielding consumers from spammers.