Google Could Use Your Data to Train Its AI Models

The small-but-significant Privacy Policy update was made at the weekend.

Google has recently updated its Privacy Policy to retain anything posted publicly by users, so it can train its AI models for products such as Bard.  

While Google isn’t doing anything unique in laying claim to user data, this latest update could be yet another reason for you wanting to remove your information from the search engine’s reach.

Your Data Could Help Build the Likes of Bard

The original Privacy Policy stated that public data would be used for business purposes, research and to improve its Google Translate service. In the past week, this has since been updated to explain that it may also be used to build and operate AI products and more:

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“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.”

Further down Google clarifies that it may collect publicly available information to help train its AI models and enhance their capabilities. In other words, this could mean if your businesses’ information sits on a website, it could now be indexed and displayed as part of a Google service.

When Does the Change Come Into Effect?

This change to how Google may use your data is well and truly here, having come into effect immediately, on July 1st 2023, and it doesn’t just include anything you’ve searched from that date onwards.

The update will encompass huge amounts of public information – data from decades-worth of interactions. Just think about how long you’ve had your Gmail or YouTube account.

However, it remains unclear whether users with an active Google account have to formally agree to the policy change or if simply having contact with the search engine is enough to allow it to data scrape.

For now, the jury’s out on this, as language training models such as ChatGPT have similarly undertaken public data scraping for training purposes.

It should be made clear that private data (for example, files in your Google Drive or Google Photos app) has not yet been mentioned as a source for AI learning. So users can tentatively consider that safe.

Who Else Is Collecting Your Data and Why?

While it’s common knowledge that most tech companies and AI models are in the habit of saving user data, it’s worth knowing to what extent. 

Meta is understandably top of the data-collectors list, gathering 79% of data that a business can legally collect. The more it knows about you, the more it can advertise to you and with a forecasted $148bn advertising revenue, it pays for Meta to be clued up.

Back to Google apps, and Maps is the product that’s likely to know most about you. It tracks 23% of your available data, including image recognition of your location. YouTube collects a similar volume but is more attuned to your hobbies and interests, thanks to knowledge of your viewing history. 

Other applications such as Gmail, Sheets and Docs are valuable to Google, but not as much, with data scrapes only able to really determine the languages you speak. 

While you can go about your online business using Google search as usual, it’s really a case of ‘time will tell’ as to where the data scraping – and subsequent learning – will take Google, its AI models, and – ultimately – us. 

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Written by:
Ellis Di Cataldo (MA) has over 9 years experience writing about, and for, some of the world’s biggest tech companies. She's been the lead writer across digital campaigns, always-on content and worldwide product launches, for global brands including Sony, Electrolux, Byrd, The Open University and Barclaycard. Her particular areas of interest are business trends, startup stories and product news.
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