A new feature in Facebook Messenger will offer Fandango deals by "listening" to chats. This really doesn't seem like a big leap to make, in an era when Google actively watches the content of emails in order to send users targeted ads, and any number of electronic devices one might own can potentially be used to track one's current location. Still, many people are likely to find the notion at least a tad on the "Big Brother" side of the fence.
The new feature in question makes use of Facebook’s M "artificial-intelligence virtual assistant technology," which the social media giant introduced to most users this spring. The M assistants suggest different available capabilities within Messenger chats, including "sending stickers, requesting or sending a payment, launching ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft, starting a poll, making a plan, and sharing location."
According to Variety, how the feature works is that when someone in a Messenger discussion mentions plans to go to the movies, questions about show times, buying movie tickets, and other moviegoing related queries, the new Fandango chat extension will popup a message within the app. This message will suggest buying tickets through Fandango for the film being discussed, and clicking it will allow users to do so from within the Messenger app itself. In the official example scenario provided by Fandango, one user suggests going to the movies, their friend then brings up Thor, and the new extension then suggests buying tickets to see Thor: Ragnarok.
For those who find this new feature to be an invasion of privacy, users can disable the Fandango suggestions in Messenger app by simply changing the app's settings. Any other similar M suggestion can also be disabled in the same way. The extremely privacy-conscious will also be happy to know that Facebook Messenger also contains a feature called secret conversation mode, which encrypts a chat so that only the people involved can see the text, hiding it even from Facebook itself.
This feature was introduced late last year, but isn't very heavily promoted. It remains to be seen how Messenger's new Fandango extension goes over with users, as it just rolled out today. After a summer full of box office disappointments though, the theatrical industry will obviously welcome every ticket sold that it can get, no matter the avenue of purchase.