In an inevitable development, there is now a Facebook Messenger chatbot that automates your digital/social media creeping of a person or company. Never before has it been so easy to stalk someone, and never before has Facebook so resembled a snake eating its own tail.
Keiko is marketed as a people search chatbot. “Stop googling about people, just ask her,” reads the copy on the site of the bot’s creator, Cofame. As a person who loves to google — and has been unknown to unearth rare artifacts through social media deep dives — I was skeptical. Could this bot really do an adequate job of creeping in a thorough manner?
Additionally, there was something about the entire conceit that felt a bit off, as if adding automation into the mix made the process feel less ethical.
To begin with, I typed my name into Keiko (of course) and the bot asked for my phone number, email or Twitter handle. I gave out the least personal — the Twitter handle, and it returned my previous Facebook profile picture, a short bio, the city I live in, an option to see a listing of all my social media accounts, a recent Facebook and Twitter update and keywords associated with me.
It was a comprehensive report, delivering just as much content as I might compile manually from a Google search, but some aspects were seriously outdated — something I saw repeated when I tried the bot’s skills out on my co-workers. Cofame assures users that Keiko is continually learning and “the more you chat with her, the more she can do for you.”
While that is reassuring when it comes to overall quality, it also begs an essential question. If users enter phone numbers or email addresses to search contacts, what exactly does Cofame do with that information? Could it be sold? There’s little explicit information on the company’s website, but it does note that Cofame is built by a “team of data security experts that care deeply about how your information is stored and handled on our platform.”
There is also the option to bypass the question about Twitter handles, phone numbers or email addresses and just provide a company, though this option doesn’t work as well as the latter.
In sum, it’s a mixed bag. The bot raises qualms about privacy and isn’t quite there yet in functionality — and yet it does provide a service that’s useful. At the very least, I’d recommend trying it just to see the keywords the bot recommends for you.
The chatbot is available on Facebook Messenger here and is coming soon to Slack.