More companies are quietly updating privacy policies to use collected user data to train AI models.
Others to do so include the most notable tech companies as they rush to take part in the AI craze.
The days of any activity that requires an internet connection not benefitting AI are coming to an end.
Over the last couple of months, companies as varied as Twitter, or X, Microsoft, Instacart, Meta, and Zoom have rushed to update their terms of service and/or privacy policies to allow the collection of information and content from people and customers as data to train generative artificial intelligence models.
Tweets, web searches and apparently even grocery shopping are now an opportunity for companies to build more predictive tools like Bard and ChatGPT, which is owned by OpenAI and receives considerable backing from Microsoft. Zoom, after a public upset at the idea of video calls being fed to a large language model used to train AI, is the only company to subsequently change its updated use policy to say explicitly that user videos would not be used this way.
Such backlash hasn't stopped more companies from deciding their platforms should be training grounds for AI. One of the latest to alter their terms of service is Rev, a popular service for transcribing recorded conversations and phone calls that also does things like closed captions for videos. In the latest version of Rev's Terms of Service, the company added a section it calls "Your content, including services output." That section now states that it not only has a broad license to use all of the content uploaded to its platform "whether publicly or privately," it can use the information "to improve the services, e.g., to train and maintain Rev's ASR speech-to-text model, and other Rev artificial intelligence models."
Rev's Terms seem to have been updated sometime in June to include that language, according to a copy found through the Internet Archive. Users were only prompted to review updated Terms in September, in an email from the company announcing its partnership with OpenAI as "a new third-party sub-processor." OpenAI is now processing data from Rev for "an upcoming new feature." Rev did not disclose what exactly had changed in its terms. A Rev spokesperson said the terms were updated this month and that its model is "informed by a diverse collection of voice data."
"Rev now uses data perpetually, not just while being an active customer, and it is used anonymously to train Rev's proprietary AI," the spokesperson said. The spokesperson also claimed that a Rev customer can "opt out of sharing their data for training purposes," by sending an email to email@example.com. There is no dedicated form for such a request but the spokesperson said Rev guarantees such requests will be honored.
In Instacart's August update to its terms and conditions, the online grocery shopping platform added language prohibiting anyone from using its content or data to "create, train, test, or improve" any AI tools, or the large language and machine learning models that underpin them.
More companies have been trying to do what they can to stop their data from being scraped and saved to expand datasets needed to train AI models. However, Instacart also added language that left it a window to do just that with its own customers' data, saying its license now allows it to "...otherwise enhance our machine learning algorithms, for the purposes of operating, providing, and improving the services." That language was not in its previous terms, according to a version seen through the Internet Archive. Instacart also did not specify these changes in its update.
An Instacart spokesperson said the company is preparing to deploy some sort of AI tool on its platform.
"We're incorporating generative-AI experiences into our products to assist with customers' grocery shopping questions and help them make food-related decisions," the spokesperson said. "Our updated terms clarify that generative AI is now a part of Instacart's offering subject to restrictions on misuse and the other general provisions of our terms, and the standards for those features remain the same as our entire product."
"As a best practice, don't include any personal information, like your home address or phone number," Meta advises. At the end of August, it created a simple form where users could "request" to opt out of their data being used to train AI models. The company does not say whether it will abide by any such request.
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