Google’s Controversial Privacy Update
In the update, the tech giant said, “Google uses information to improve our services and to develop new products, features, and technologies that benefit our users and the public. For example, we use publicly available information to help train Google’s AI models and build products and features like Google Translate, Bard, and Cloud AI capabilities.”
“This latest update simply clarifies that newer services like Bard are also included. We incorporate privacy principles and safeguards into the development of our AI technologies, in line with our AI Principles,” she explained to the Verge.
Notably, the update is a revision of the policy which initially stated that the company could use any public information to train “Language” models and to develop features. By revising its policy, however, Google is informing users that everything they publicly share online may be used to train products like Bard, any subsequent iterations of the software, and any other generative AI products the company creates.
This, therefore, means that whatever users upload using a Google product such as Search, Gmail, or YouTube will be saved and used by the corporation in some capacity. Moreover, Google will train its AI using publicly available data, which might be interpreted to mean pretty much anything posted on the internet as a whole.
Given that Google’s industry-dominating Search platform was built on PageRank and its ability to effectively index the entire web, this AI initiative has significant implications.
Privacy concerns have long been an issue on internet platforms. However, the rise of generative AI has transformed the worries from whether companies are accessing private data to how the private data is being used.
Expectedly, this update has attracted a lot of criticism from internet users. Most users have called for the company to uphold privacy laws while others have been recommending substitutes to primary Google products such as browsers, email, and translators.
The data will train Google's AI models and build products/features such as Google Translate, Bard, and Cloud AI capabilities.
-Google can use any information people post… pic.twitter.com/JOhmA5rBHY
— Rowan Cheung (@rowancheung) July 4, 2023
Data Privacy vs AI Advancements
This Google update comes after a class-action lawsuit was filed against ChatGPT’s creator, OpenAI, in California for allegedly using the internet to scrape users’ private information. The suit accused OpenAI of training ChatGPT using data collected from millions of social media comments, blog posts, Wikipedia articles, and family recipes without the consent of the respective users.
Considering the magnitude of Google’s reach into users’ data, similar lawsuits are definitely looming.
Aside from the general public, countries, companies, and organizations have also taken an interest in how data used to train AI models is being collected. The European Union, for instance, in its AI Act requires that companies ensure that the data being used to train Ai systems is compliant with relevant data protection laws.
Elon Musk has also expressed his concern especially over web scraping as a form of data collection. In fact, the Twitter CEO attributes several Twitter disasters to the platform’s need to prevent users from pulling data off the social media site, even when the issues are not tied in any way to data scraping.
In an attempt to curtail such efforts, Twitter limited the number of tweets a user can view per day terming it a response to data scraping and system manipulation. Unfortunately, the move turned out to be impractical as it rendered the platform unusable.
Due to Google’s dominance in various sectors of the tech industry, it might be difficult to evade the new policy and prevent one’s data from being used. However, through measures such as only posting information you are comfortable with Google accessing or seeking alternative services, users can reduce the amount of data available to the company.
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