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Truecaller introduces smart SMS feature

Smart SMS is the easiest way to automatically organise your inbox into what’s important and actually what should be considered Spam. It’s also about keeping you focused on the right things, by not sending you notifications for spam messages. But what if there’s more to the story than those two simple definitions? What is considered as important for someone could be considered as Spam for someone else. That is why we need your help to make Smart SMS smarter. You are the backbone of Truecaller, you are a part of the Community. This is how you do it.

The dilemma of smart SMS
Currently SMS threads or conversations are categorised only by the spam reports available against a sender in most of the countries globally. So if a sender has a lot of spam reports, all messages from that sender will land in the spam folder. That gives us some challenges. For example: what if you love going to the movies, so when you’re getting promotional texts from the movie theatre close by, you get excited and make plans to go the same night. Your neighbour really hates going to the movies, and marks the same message as Spam faster than you can say “Action”.

There’s your dilemma. It could also be that the same sender sends both informational/transactional messages, and messages that could be categorised as Promotional/Spam messages. It’s all about the content.

The solution to improving smart SMS is content based filtering
Content based filtering helps solve this dilemma. Our machine learning models look at the content of your message offline, (within your device itself) to figure out whether the message is useful or not. The message content never actually leaves your device, but with the help of the machine learning model is categorised as spam or important. While this happens, this machine model can also be updated based on your preferences. You (yes you, VIP) are able to give feedback directly against the message so the machine learning model within your device learns that certain messages from a sender are spammy in nature while certain other messages are important and puts them in the right inbox. This brings you real value right out of the box because the system is much more nuanced and you will only be notified about messages that are relevant to you.

This system also learns and grows automatically with time. You have the ability to mark a message as important or spam right from the conversation. We hope you know how you can help others by only reporting a number as spam, right in the Truecaller app.

Your feedback does two things to make Smart SMS truly SMART:

  1. It tweaks the model offline (on your device itself) so that future messages which are similar to the message marked by you, fall into the appropriate inbox. So, no more notifications from spammy messages!
  2. Also, with your permission, we send the masked message to our backend to automatically improve the categorisation model globally, so that millions of users around the world benefit from the feedback that you’ve provided.. When we say masked message we mean that after you grant permission, we remove all the personal and sensitive information from the message and only then we send the message to our backend. So your actual, complete message is still available only on your device, offline.

One cool aspect of this two pronged approach is that , even if the whole world says that a specific message is important to them, but you have marked said message as spam, the model learns from your feedback and tries to mark the message in question as spam itself.

Country or regional specific content
Messages and senders vary around the world, and we have taken that into consideration. This also means that the content based filtering will improve over time, as more and more people start using the feature. The more people in a region using Truecaller equals a faster learning system.

Help me to help myself
Or rather – help yourself, and the rest will be helped as well. That would be a great slogan for this feedback we’re asking of you. The more you tell us about what kind of messages you’re getting, the better we can make sure you’re only getting what you want. And at the same time, this will help others as well. Or even better – you will be helped by a community of over 300 million people, doing exactly the same thing as you are. While using Truecaller as your default SMS app, you can rest assured that you will never miss out on an important SMS and stay protected from spam because of the sheer volume of community feedback from over 300 million people.

CT Bureau

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