Google updates privacy policy to collect public data for AI training

Over the weekend, Google updated its privacy policy to allow the company to collect and analyze the information people share online to train its AI models.

Google states that it will use this information to improve its services and develop new products based on artificial intelligence.

The update to Google’s privacy policy reads:

“Google uses information to improve our services and 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 such as Google Translate, Bard, and Cloud AI capabilities.”

Here’s more on the policy change and what it could mean for internet users.

A shift from “linguistic” models to “AI” models.

The updated policy marks a marked change from Google’s previous terms of service.

Prior to this weekend’s update, Google’s policy stated that it used people’s data to improve “language” models.

Now, Google reserves the right to use people’s data to improve all of its “AI” models and products, including translation systems, text-generating systems, and artificial intelligence services in the cloud.

Google highlights the changes on its privacy policy archive page (green represents newly added information):

Google updates privacy policy to collect public data for AI trainingScreenshot from:, July 2022.

Typically, privacy policies restrict companies from collecting data that users directly provide. Under Google’s new policy, the company can use any information people post publicly online.

Privacy concerns

Using artificial intelligence systems to analyze people’s online posts raises privacy concerns.

AI technologies like Google’s Bard and OpenAI’s ChatGPT could accept and reuse people’s posts, reviews, and other online content.

While anything publicly posted online can be seen by anyone, the way that information might be used is changing. The primary concern is moving from Who can access the data a As could be used.

Furthermore, the legality of this method of data collection is still uncertain.

As we move forward, expect the courts to grapple with complex copyright issues.

Web scraping

The web scraping issue has caught the attention of high-profile tech figures like Elon Musk, who has voiced his concerns, also blaming several recent Twitter mishaps on the platform’s efforts to prevent data exfiltration.

Over the weekend, Twitter reduced the number of tweets users could view per day, rendering the service nearly unusable. Moss attributed this to an essential response to “data scraping” and “system manipulation”.

The prevalence of tech giants’ web scraping practices is now a pivotal discussion in the consumer data use and privacy debate.

How to protect your data

If you’re concerned about changes to Google’s privacy policy, here are some steps you can take to prevent Google from using your data to train its AI systems:

  • Only post information that you feel is comfortable with anyone, including Google, accessing and using it.
  • Please use Google’s privacy controls. Go to your Google Account and review your privacy settings. You can choose to turn off options like ‘Web & App Activity’, ‘Location History’, and ‘Voice & Audio Activity’.
  • Use alternative services. Instead of using Google services like Search, Gmail, YouTube, Chrome, etc., you can switch to alternative providers with stricter privacy policies. Options include DuckDuckGo for searching, ProtonMail for email, Vimeo for video sharing, and Brave for web browsing.
  • When using Google services, turn on private or incognito mode.
  • Read the privacy statements for websites, mobile apps, or other services before using them. Beware of those who claim to share your data with Google.
  • Contact Google directly to express your concerns about how your data could be used to train its AI models.

In summary

Google’s update that allows the company to collect and analyze public data to train its AI systems highlights important issues.

First, as AI technologies become more advanced, tech companies have a growing appetite for data. However, this data collection should be done legally and ethically, with users’ consent and knowledge of how their information is being used.

Second, people should carefully decide what to share online and be aware that public posts can be used in ways that are hard to predict.

While AI promises many benefits, it introduces new challenges that we must overcome to build a responsible future with AI.

Featured image: Ian Dewar Photography/Shutterstock

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