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Security & privacy

Be careful: ChatGPT likes it when you get personal

ChatGPT has taken the world by storm since its introduction in November and continues to impress and surprise us. Here are some recent ChatGPT developments that’ll blow your mind.

With all the hype surrounding AI-powered chatbots, it’s easy to get carried away and forget the risks. While we haven’t reached the point where we have to worry about AI taking over humanity, there’s a more immediate concern we’re dealing with right now: privacy.

What you need to know

Chatbots like ChatGPT can answer your questions and assist you with tasks like composing emails, essays and code. Need help with a recipe? Not sure what to wear to a job interview? The bots are here to help!

The problem is that these programs collect a lot of data. 

Let’s start by going over what ChatGPT’s parent company, OpenAI, collects:

  • Log data: Your IP address, browser type, settings, and chats are collected and stored.
  • Usage data: How you view or engage with the site, your location by time zone and country, dates and times you access the site, and the type of device you’re using (iPhone, Android phone, Mac, PC.)
  • Device information: The name of the device, operating system and browser you’re using. For example, “Kim’s iPhone” is logged into ChatGPT through Safari.
  • Cookies: These bits of browsing data are used to “improve your experience” — A standard boilerplate statement that translates to “We’re tracking you.” OpenAI shares this information with third parties but claims it’s shared anonymously or in a de-identified form.
  • Analytics: OpenAI uses cookies to analyze how you use its services and to enhance your experience.

What you’re voluntarily handing over

While the above data is collected while using ChatGPT, the list doesn’t include what you voluntarily provide when you sign up to use the program. Here are some highlights:

  • When creating an account, you give your contact and payment information. 
  • Interacting with OpenAI’s social media pages shares personal information, such as your contact details. (Take this as a reminder to delete your phone number and any other contact information from your profile!)
  • Here’s something that should come as no surprise: What you type into ChatGPT is being collected to “improve” the AI model. Microsoft admits that its employees may manually review data it collects when you use its services, such as the new ChatGPT-powered Bing. Translation: A human could be reading your conversations. 

Watch what you say

Last month, Italy banned ChatGPT for violating the EU’s privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

AI-powered chatbots don’t feel like Google — they’re designed to communicate like people, which is a trap you must watch out for. You’ll be tempted to say things you would never type into a search bar. Don’t get caught off guard!

By all means, ask ChatGPT for a recipe or help with writing a cover letter. But don’t give it any personally identifying information. You don’t need the chatbot to know where you live or work or how many kids you have. 

Don’t share customer information from your job or anything that could reveal trade secrets. Follow your company’s security policies as you would for email, phone calls or anything else. 

Microsoft itself, which is contributing billions to OpenAI, warns against providing company confidential information. We always strive to keep ahead of things. When ChatGPT first came out, we warned you not to share personal, financial or sensitive information.

Protect yourself

Keep the following in mind when using ChatGPT or any similar service:

Delete yourself

If you’ve signed up for ChatGPT and are already over it or don’t like the privacy implications, you can simply delete your account.

NOTE: This action is permanent and associated with your account. Not only is all your data deleted, but you won’t be able to create a new account in the future (at least, not with that email address).

Here’s how to delete your ChatGPT account:

  • Log in to your OpenAI account at
  • Select the Help button at the bottom right.
  • Select Send us a message.
  • Select Account Deletion and follow the onscreen steps to delete your account.

Keep reading

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Privacy tip: How to delete cookies from your phone

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