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Technology

Use That Everyday A.I. in Your Pocket

Virtual assistants usually hog the spotlight when it comes to talk of artificial intelligence software on smartphones and tablets. But Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby and company aren’t the only tools using machine learning to make life easier — other common programs use the technology, too. Here’s a quick tour through some common A.I.-driven apps and how you can manage them.

When you set up a new device, you’re usually invited to “enroll” in its facial recognition security program, which captures your image and analyzes it so the program will recognize you in different looks and lighting situations. Later, when you want to unlock the device or use apps like digital payment systems, the camera confirms that your face matches the stored data so you can proceed.

Credit…Apple; Google

If you decide to use the feature, check your device maker’s privacy policy to see where that data is stored. For example, Apple states that “Face ID data does not leave your device,” and Google says it stores face data on the security chips on its Pixel phones. If you sign up and then have second thoughts, you can always go into your phone’s Face ID or Face Unlock settings, delete or reset the data, turn off the feature and stick with a passcode.

If you’ve ever been typing along on your phone’s keyboard and noticed suggested words for what you might type next, that’s machine learning in action. Apple’s iOS software includes a predictive text function that bases its suggestions on your past conversations, Safari browser searches and other sources.

Google’s Gboard keyboard for Android and iOS can offer word suggestions, and Google has a Smart Compose tool for Gmail and other text-entry apps that draws on personal information collected in your Google Account to tailor its word predictions. Samsung has its own predictive text software for its Galaxy devices.

Credit…Apple

The suggestions may save you time, and Apple and Google both state that the customized predictions based on your personal information remain private. Still, if you’d like fewer algorithms in your business, turn it off. On an iPhone (or iPad), you can turn off Predictive Text in the Keyboard settings.

Google Lens (for Android and iOS) and Apple’s Live Text feature use artificial intelligence to analyze the text in images for automatic translation and can perform other helpful tasks like Apple’s “visual look up.” Google Lens can identify plants, animals and products seen through the phone’s camera, and these searches are saved. You can delete the information or turn off the data-gathering in the Web & App Activity settings in your Google Account.

Credit…Google; Apple

In iOS 15, you can turn off Live Text by opening the Settings app, tapping General and then Language & Region and turning off the button for Live Text. Later this year, Live Text is getting an upgrade in iOS 16, in which Apple stresses the role of “on-device intelligence” in doing the work.

These A.I.-in-action tools are most useful when they have access to personal information like your address and contacts. If you have concerns, read your phone maker’s privacy policy: Apple, Google and Samsung all have documents posted in their sites. The nonprofit site Common Sense Media has posted independent privacy evaluations for Siri, Google Assistant and Bixby.

Credit…Google; Apple

Setting up the software is straightforward because the assistant guides you, but check out the app’s own settings to customize it. And don’t forget the general privacy controls built into your phone’s operating system.

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