Google has come out and said it will be sucking up all of your publicly available user data to fuel the Google Bard chatbot and other AI initiatives.
This was made clear in Google's updated privacy policies (as flagged by Techspot), with the search giant noting any content posted and shared on the web by users of its services is fair game to train its AI tech on.
"We may collect information that’s publicly available online or from other public sources to help train Google’s AI models and build products and features like Google Translate, Bard, and Cloud AI capabilities,” Google’s new policy explained.
Now that doesn't mean Google will be sifting through your private photos or emails to let Bard determine if you have embarrassing fantasies or just really love taking photos of your brunch. But all the things you would normally search, watch and buy, along with the location data you allow to be shared on Android phones, can be scraped and used by Google to train AI systems.
And in “some circumstances” Google will collect information about you from "publicly accessible sources" — say, if your name appears in a blog post or other media, it could be indexed and used.
For people aware of Google’s data harvesting ways, this is all par for the course. But the idea that such data might now feed AI chatbots could be a step too far, especially as Google Bard hasn't showered itself in glory as the most accurate of chatbots.
Of course, others may feel this is simply a form of transaction one makes with Google to use its services for what’s effectively free. And the core to making AIs smarter is to effectively feed them more data.
What to do if you don't want your data feeding Google’s AI tech?
The fast answer to this is to simply stop using Google services and devices. But that’s easier said than done.
For example, as much as Apple champions privacy, the default search engine of Safari is Google Search, so you could be somewhat inadvertently using Google Search if you're not paying attention (you can change the default browser of Safari though).
You can also log out of Google services and use them anonymously, though what you search for can still be tracked by Google. In fairness to Google, there are plenty of options to limit the access it has to your data, especially personal information. The downside to this that some of the handy personalized functions offered by the likes of Chrome could become unavailable.
Opting for a completely different browser, such as Mozilla Firefox and ensuring it doesn't use Google Search, is also another way to keep your public content and data out of reach of a hungry Google AI. You can also try Microsoft Edge and the new Bing powered by ChatGPT.
Ultimately, part of the nature of using the modern internet and digital services does tend to involve in giving up some data. A lot of this could be totally trivial and only really be useful to particular services. But if you’re concerned about what exactly Google is collecting from you, do look into the privacy and data collection options in your Google account.
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Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.