Originally posted on wired.
Checking out this AI chatbot’s new features? Make sure to keep these privacy tips in mind during your interactions.
WITH ITS MOST recent update, Google Bard can now sort through your trove of Google Docs, rediscover ancient Gmail messages, and search through every video on YouTube. Before experimenting too much with the new extensions available for Google’s chatbot, it’s worth going over the steps you can take to protect your privacy (and the ones you can’t).
Google Bard launched in March of this year, one month after OpenAI released ChatGPT to the public. You’re likely familiar with how chatbots are designed to mimic human conversation, but Google’s latest features are designed to give Bard more practical applications and uses.
But when every conversation you have with Bard is tracked, logged, and used again to train the AI, how can you trust it with your data? Here are some tips to protect your prompts and assert some control over what information you give Bard. Then we’ll discuss location data, for which Google sadly provides fewer privacy options.
The default Bard setting is to store every interaction you have with the chatbot for 18 months. In addition to your prompts, Bard stores your approximate location, IP address, and any physical addresses connected to your Google account for work or home. While the default settings are activated, any conversation you have with Bard could be selected for human review.
Want to turn this off? When you’re in the Bard Activity tab, you can stop it from autosaving your prompts and also delete any past interactions. “We give you this choice around Bard Activity, which you can turn on or off, if you want to keep your conversations [from being] human-reviewable,” says Jack Krawczyk, a product lead at Google for Bard.
Yes, you can choose to delete interactions with Bard manually, but the data might not be removed from Google servers until some point later, when the company decides to delete it (if ever). “To help Bard improve while protecting your privacy, we select a subset of conversations and use automated tools to help remove personally identifiable information,” a Google support page reads. The conversations selected for human review are no longer tied to your personal account, and these interactions are stored by Google for up to three years, even if you clear it out of your Bard Activity.
It’s also worth noting that any Bard conversation you want to share with friends or coworkers could potentially be indexed by Google Search. At the time of publication, multiple Bard interactions were accessible through Search, from a job hunter requesting advice when applying for a position at YouTube Music to someone asking for 50 different ingredients they could blend into protein powder.
This may make you wonder: If I’m using Bard to find my ancient emails, do those conversations remain private? Maybe, maybe not. “With the ability to have Bard summarize and extract content from your Gmail and your Google Docs, we took it a step even further,” says Krawczyk. “Nothing from there is ever eligible. No matter what settings you have turned on. Your email will never be read by another human. Your Google Docs will never be read by another human.” Although no human readers may sound like a bit of relief, it remains unclear how Google uses your data and interactions to train their algorithm or future iterations of the chatbot.
OK, now what about your location data? Are there any tools to limit when Bard keeps track of where you are? In a pop-up, Bard users are given the option whether or not to share their precise location with the chatbot. Even if you opt out of precise location sharing, Bard will still know where you’re at.