Tumblr and WordPress plan to sell user data to OpenAI and Midjourney to train AI models;

Tumblr WordPress plan to sell user data to OpenAI and

Concerns Arise Over Data Usage for AI Training

Tumblr and WordPress users may soon find that their data is being used to train artificial intelligence (AI) models, according to a report. The blog site’s parent company, Automattic, has reportedly struck deals with OpenAI and Midjourney to sell user-generated content that will reportedly be used to train artificial intelligence. While the details of the transactions and data sharing practices remain unclear at this time, it has raised questions about data privacy and the ethics of companies sharing their user data with third parties.

Internal Communications Shed Light on Data Practices

Internal communications from Automattic employees, obtained by 404 Media, provide insights into the company’s dealings with AI firms. The communications not only confirmed the deal with OpenAI and Midjourney but also revealed significant details about the practices involved. According to the report, Automattic‘s agreement with these AI firms could be officially announced in the near future. Additionally, it appears that data collection for AI companies has already commenced. An internal memo authored by product manager Cyle Gage suggested that all of Tumblr‘s public posts from 2014 to 2023 were compiled for this purpose.

Raising Privacy Concerns and Ethical Questions

The report brings attention to a concerning revelation: private and deleted user content may have been automatically compiled alongside public data. It remains unclear whether this data set has already been shared with AI companies. Such practices not only jeopardize the personal data of users but also raise ethical questions about the company’s data handling policies and the robustness of its security infrastructure.

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Automattic’s Response and Measures to Protect Users

In response to the growing concerns, Automattic issued a statement emphasizing the transformative impact of AI on various aspects of society, including content creation and consumption. The company reiterated its commitment to a free and open network, emphasizing individual choice. Automattic outlined several measures aimed at safeguarding user privacy, including blocking AI platform locks and offering settings to prevent search engines from indexing sites on WordPress and Tumblr. Additionally, users are provided with an opt-out setting to prevent data sharing with third parties. However, the company acknowledged that there is currently no legal requirement for web crawlers to adhere to these preferences.

Ambiguity Surrounding Opt-Out Mechanisms

Despite assurances from Automattic, the mechanism for opting out of data sharing remains ambiguous. While the company claims that AI firms will respect opt-out settings and even remove past content from users who opt out, the reality appears to be more complex. An internal document dated February 23 revealed uncertainty among employees regarding whether data partners would honor users’ opt-out decisions. Andrew Spittle, Automattic‘s head of AI, offered a vague response, stating that he believes the partners will respect opt-out decisions based on conversations with them. However, this response lacks clarity and fails to confirm any concrete agreements on the matter.

Conclusion

The response was noted to be vague and did not confirm whether Automattic had an agreement on the same, the report said. Furthermore, the entire line of reasoning seems to be based on the assumption that AI companies have little to gain by keeping user data. It should be noted that the practice of sharing data with third parties is not new, and most social media platforms own the rights to public content created by users of the platform. However, making such transactions without identifying those users could potentially expose private information to companies that use the same data to train artificial intelligence systems.

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