If you’ve ever shared a link to the latest big discovery you made using AI, you might be surprised who knows about it by now. Seems Google Bard has trouble keeping its lips zipped. Here is the full story.
AI for the Masses
Ever since late 2022, when ChatGPT hit the scene in a big way, people from all walks of life have jumped into AI with both feet.
Everybody Wants a Piece
And big tech companies like Google have been scrambling to get their own chatbots to the front of the AI line.
Not Telling Us Everything?
But in the rush to make good on the promise of Bard, Google may have been less transparent with where user data ends up than some would have liked.
Not So Private
In late September, SEO consultant Gagan Ghotra took to X and let the world know that the Bard conversations he had shared with other users were showing up in Google searches.
Share Your Big Ideas
Basically, Google Bard lets you share a link to the chatbot conversation you’re having with anyone you like.
They’re Always Listening
And if you have taken advantage of that feature, it turns out Google’s crawlers may have used the link to scrape the entire conversation.
Just like they do with, say, that knitting blog you love so much.
Not What You’d Expect
That’s not what most users would expect to happen, says Ghotra.
All of the big AI tools make it clear that your chats won’t be exposed to the outside world.
Private by Default
A Google research engineer responded to Ghotra’s tweet and clarified that only shared conversations were indexed.
“Your conversations are not public by default,” he said.
The implication in that statement is that you change the default privacy setting anytime you share a chat.
Hiding the Truth
Ghotra pushed back and said he understood that now.
But he didn’t think most users would expect sharing to turn off their privacy.
Not What They Intended
Eventually, the Google SearchLiaison X account replied to Ghotra and said that they had not intended for shared conversations to be indexed by their crawlers.
A Bug, Not a Feature
So, it was a bug, basically.
And one SearchLiaison said they were actively working to correct by blocking shared chats from their crawlers.
They Owned It
It’s at least encouraging that Google owned up to the gaffe and committed to a fix.
But this revelation comes on the heels of the big September release, where Google announced that users can now let Bard read their email, Google Drive files, and Google Docs.
Meet Your New Assistant
The promise is that this new integration turns Bard into a sort of super assistant that can fish out vital information and build insights with just a few keystrokes.
Yours and Yours Alone
And, of course, the other promise around the new Bard features is that your data won’t end up on the public internet.
No Possible Danger
A Google spokesperson told VentureBeat that it’s not even possible to share conversations when using Bard in conjunction with Gmail, Drive, or Docs.
Their Intentions Aren’t Clear
Whether Google views that limitation as a security feature or just a necessary response to the news about indexed shared conversations is not clear.
The Online Wild West
But there’s no doubt the unintentional indexing of “private” conversations is a reminder that AI is still a bit wild and wooly as 2024 looms.
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / gguy. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.