ChatGPT has taken the world by storm. Within two months of its release it reached 100 million active users, making it the fastest-growing consumer application ever launched. Users are attracted to the tool’s advanced capabilities – and concerned by its potential to cause disruption in various sectors.
A much less discussed implication is the privacy risks ChatGPT poses to each and every one of us. Just yesterday, Google unveiled its own conversational AI called Bard, and others will surely follow. Technology companies working on AI have well and truly entered an arms race.
The problem is it’s fuelled by our personal data.
Everyone’s having a field day with ChatGPT – but nobody knows how it actually works
300 billion words. How many are yours?
ChatGPT is underpinned by a large language model that requires massive amounts of data to function and improve. The more data the model is trained on, the better it gets at detecting patterns, anticipating what will come next and generating plausible text.
OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, fed the tool some 300 billion words systematically scraped from the internet: books, articles, websites and posts – including personal information obtained without consent.
If you’ve ever written a blog post or product review, or commented on an article online, there’s a good chance this information was consumed by ChatGPT.
So why is that an issue?
The data collection used to train ChatGPT is problematic for several reasons.
First, none of us were asked whether OpenAI could use our data. This is a clear violation of privacy, especially when data are sensitive and can be used to identify us, our family members, or our location.
Even when data are publicly available their use can breach what we call contextual integrity. This is a fundamental