Posts with «business» label

Yuck: Slack has been scanning your messages to train its AI models

Slack trains machine-learning models on user messages, files and other content without explicit permission. The training is opt-out, meaning your private data will be leeched by default. Making matters worse, you’ll have to ask your organization’s Slack admin (human resources, IT, etc.) to email the company to ask it to stop. (You can’t do it yourself.) Welcome to the dark side of the new AI training data gold rush.

Corey Quinn, an executive at DuckBill Group, spotted the policy in a blurb in Slack’s Privacy Principles and posted about it on X (via PCMag). The section reads (emphasis ours), “To develop AI/ML models, our systems analyze Customer Data (e.g. messages, content, and files) submitted to Slack as well as Other Information (including usage information) as defined in our Privacy Policy and in your customer agreement.”

The opt-out process requires you to do all the work to protect your data. According to the privacy notice, “To opt out, please have your Org or Workspace Owners or Primary Owner contact our Customer Experience team at with your Workspace/Org URL and the subject line ‘Slack Global model opt-out request.’ We will process your request and respond once the opt out has been completed.”

I'm sorry Slack, you're doing fucking WHAT with user DMs, messages, files, etc? I'm positive I'm not reading this correctly.

— Corey Quinn (@QuinnyPig) May 16, 2024

The company replied to Quinn’s message on X: “To clarify, Slack has platform-level machine-learning models for things like channel and emoji recommendations and search results. And yes, customers can exclude their data from helping train those (non-generative) ML models.”

How long ago the Salesforce-owned company snuck the tidbit into its terms is unclear. It’s misleading, at best, to say customers can opt out when “customers” doesn’t include employees working within an organization. They have to ask whoever handles Slack access at their business to do that — and I hope they will oblige.

Inconsistencies in Slack’s privacy policies add to the confusion. One section states, “When developing Al/ML models or otherwise analyzing Customer Data, Slack can’t access the underlying content. We have various technical measures preventing this from occurring.” However, the machine-learning model training policy seemingly contradicts this statement, leaving plenty of room for confusion. 

In addition, Slack’s webpage marketing its premium generative AI tools reads, “Work without worry. Your data is your data. We don’t use it to train Slack AI. Everything runs on Slack’s secure infrastructure, meeting the same compliance standards as Slack itself.”

In this case, the company is speaking of its premium generative AI tools, separate from the machine learning models it’s training on without explicit permission. However, as PCMag notes, implying that all of your data is safe from AI training is, at best, a highly misleading statement when the company apparently gets to pick and choose which AI models that statement covers.

Engadget tried to contact Slack via multiple channels but didn’t receive a response at the time of publication. We’ll update this story if we hear back.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Netflix is becoming an ad-tech company

There was a time when streamers wooed potential customers with the promise of an ad-free experience. In recent years, however, companies such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney and more have hiked up their prices and made an ad-supported tier the most affordable option. Now, Netflix is taking the next step towards becoming a de-facto ad tech company by moving its development in-house, according to The Hollywood Reporter

Netflix announced the shift during its upfront preview, in which the company also shared that its $7 per month ad-supported tier has 40 million monthly active users. The ad-supported plan is reportedly getting 40 percent of new signups, with it having 15 million users just six months ago, in November. 

The streaming company has relied heavily on Microsoft to reach this success, partnering with the tech giant in 2022 on advertising and sales. But, the training wheels are coming off with Netflix's choice to move things in house, a choice that "will allow us to power the ads plan with the same level of excellence that’s made Netflix the leader in streaming technology today," Netflix ads chief Amy Reinhard said. Microsoft will also no longer be Netflix's sole ad tech partner, as the streamer will start working with companies like Google’s Display & Video 360 and The Trade Desk later this summer. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

OpenAI partners with People publisher Dotdash Meredith

OpenAI is partnering with another publisher as it moves towards a licensed approach to training materials. Dotdash Meredith, the owner of brands like People and Better Homes & Gardens, will license its content for OpenAI to train ChatGPT while the publisher will use the AI company’s models to boost its in-house ad-targeting tool.

As part of the arrangement, ChatGPT will display content and links attributed to Dotdash Meredith’s publications. It also provides OpenAI with fully licensed training material from trusted publications.

That’s a welcome change after the company got in hot water for allegedly using content for training purposes without permission. The New York Times and Alden Capital Group (owner of The Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and the Orlando Sentinel) have sued the ChatGPT maker, accusing it of using its content without permission. Comedian Sarah Silverman and a conspiracy-mongering car salesman (the latter for different reasons) have, too.

“We have not been shy about the fact that AI platforms should pay publishers for their content and that content must be appropriately attributed,” Neil Vogel, Dotdash Meredith CEO, wrote in a press release. “This deal is a testament to the great work OpenAI is doing on both fronts to partner with creators and publishers and ensure a healthy Internet for the future.”

Before the Dotdash Meredith deal, OpenAI struck an agreement with The Financial Times. “It is right, of course, that AI platforms pay publishers for the use of their material,” the paper’s CEO, John Ridding, said in a statement last month.

Dotdash Meredith, which also owns Investopedia, Food & Wine, InStyle and Verywell, will use OpenAI’s models to supercharge its D/Cipher ad-targeting tool. The publisher says its advertising system “connects advertisers directly to consumers based on the context of content being consumed, without using personal identifiers like cookies.” That’s an industry-wide shift on the horizon, as Google is moving to a cookie-less future — albeit later than initially advertised.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

TikTok is suing the US government to stop its app being banned

TikTok is officially challenging the law that could lead to a ban of the app in the United States. The company, which has long claimed that efforts to force a sale or ban of its app are unconstitutional, announced a lawsuit against the federal government.

In the lawsuit, TikTok claims that a divestiture of its business from ByteDance is “simply not possible,” and that the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” violates the First Amendment. “They claim that the Act is not a ban because it offers ByteDance a choice: divest TikTok’s U.S. business or be shut down,” the suit states. “But in reality, there is no choice. The ‘qualified divestiture’ demanded by the Act to allow TikTok to continue operating in the United States is simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally.”

The filing of the lawsuit is the first beat in what’s expected to be a lengthy legal battle over the law, which was passed last month. Under the law, TikTok has up to a year to separate itself from Chinese parent company ByteDance or face a ban in US app stores. However, legal challenges from TikTok could significantly delay that process.


This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google prohibits ads promoting websites and apps that generate deepfake porn

Google has updated its Inappropriate Content Policy to include language that expressly prohibits advertisers from promoting websites and services that generate deepfake pornography. While the company already has strong restrictions in place for ads that feature certain types of sexual content, this update leaves no doubt that promoting "synthetic content that has been altered or generated to be sexually explicit or contain nudity" is in violation of its rules. 

Any advertiser promoting sites or apps that generate deepfake porn, that show instructions on how to create deepfake porn and that endorse or compare various deepfake porn services will be suspended without warning. They will no longer be able to publish their ads on Google, as well. The company will start implementing this rule on May 30 and is giving advertisers the chance to remove any ad in violation of the new policy. As 404 Media notes, the rise of deepfake technologies has led to an increasing number of ads promoting tools that specifically target users wanting to create sexually explicit materials. Some of those tools reportedly even pretend to be wholesome services to be able to get listed on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, but it's masks off on social media where they promote their ability to generate manipulated porn. 

Google has, however, already started prohibiting services that create sexually explicit deepfakes in Shopping ads. Similar to its upcoming wider policy, the company has banned Shopping ads for services that "generate, distribute, or store synthetic sexually explicit content or synthetic content containing nudity. " Those include deepfake porn tutorials and pages that advertise deepfake porn generators. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google says Epic’s Play Store demands are too much and too self-serving

Epic Games won its antitrust lawsuit against Google in December when a federal jury found that the latter violated US antitrust laws with regards to how it runs the Play Store. A few months later, the gaming developer submitted its list of demands, which if implemented will blow the Play Store wide open. Now, Google has filed an injunction telling the court that no, it will not give Epic what it wants without a fight, because the company's asks "stray far beyond the trial record." 

The remedies Epic had submitted would require the court not just to create a global regulatory regime to set prices for apps, Google wrote in the filing as seen by Engadget, but also to micromanage "a highly complex and dynamic ecosystem" used by billions of consumers and app developers around the world. If you'll recall, Epic wants Google to open up Android to third-party app stores and to make its catalog of apps available to those stores. It also wants restrictions on pre-installed apps to be outlawed and to prohibit any Google activity that incentivizes third-parties. 

Google said that bowing down to all those demands would "effectively prevent [it] from competing," which in turn would negatively affect Android users and developers. Epic's proposals only benefit Epic, Google said in its filing, and will harm other developers by depriving them of control over where their app is distributed. Manufacturers will no longer be able to take advantage of the partnerships Google typically offers, while users have to deal with additional security and privacy risks. 

The company also slammed Epic over the "vagueness" of its proposed injunction, which would require the repeated and ongoing intervention of the courts. Similarly, Epic's demands would apparently require the court to micromanage Google's business. 

"Epic’s demands would harm the privacy, security, and overall experience of consumers, developers, and device manufacturers," Wilson White, Google's Vice President of Government Affairs & Public Policy, told Engadget in a statement. "Not only does their proposal go far beyond the scope of the recent US trial verdict — which we will be challenging — it’s also unnecessary due to the settlement we reached last year with State Attorneys General from every state and multiple territories. We will continue to vigorously defend our right to a sustainable business model that enables us to keep people safe, partner with developers to innovate and grow their businesses, and maintain a thriving Android ecosystem for everyone."

Google said that if Epic truly wants to promote competition rather than create "an unfair, court- supervised advantage for itself," then it would take cues from its settlement with the state officials that previously accused the company of abusing its dominance on Android app distribution. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney was, unsurprisingly, unhappy with that settlement, tweeting at the time: "If Google is ending its payments monopoly without imposing a Google Tax on third party transactions, we'll settle and be Google's friend in their new era. But if the settlement merely pays off the other plaintiffs while leaving the Google Tax in place, we'll fight on. Consumers only benefit if antitrust enforcement not only opens up markets, but also restores price competition."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Microsoft and OpenAI sued yet again by Chicago Tribune and New York Daily News

A group of publications that include the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and the Orlando Sentinel are suing Microsoft and OpenAI, as reported by The Verge. The eight publications in this particular lawsuit, all owned by Alden Capital Group (ACG), are accusing the companies of "purloining millions" of their copyrighted articles "without permission and without payment to fuel the commercialization of their generative artificial intelligence products, including ChatGPT and Copilot." 

This is but the latest lawsuit filed against Microsoft and OpenAI for their use of copyrighted materials without express consent from publishers. The New York Times also famously sued the companies late last year, alleging that they've used "almost a century's worth of copyrighted content." Their products can regurgitate Times' articles verbatim and can "mimic its expressive style," the publication said, even though they didn't have a prior licensing agreement. In a motion seeking to dismiss key parts of the lawsuit, Microsoft accused the Times of doomsday futurology by claiming that generative AI can pose a threat to independent journalism. 

ACG's newspapers complain of the same thing, that the companies' chatbots are reproducing their articles word-for-word shortly after they're published without a prominent link back to the sources. They included several examples in their complaint. In addition, the chatbots are apparently suffering from hallucinations and are attributing inaccurate reporting to ACG's publications. The publisher argued that the defendants pay for the computers, the specialized chips and the electricity they use to build and operate their generative AI products. And yet they're using copyrighted articles "without permission and without paying for the privilege" even though they need content to train their large language models. The plaintiffs referenced OpenAI's previous admission that it would be "impossible to train today's leading AI models without using copyrighted materials."

OpenAI is no longer a non-profit company, the plaintiffs said, and is now valued at $90 billion. Meanwhile, ChatGPT and Copilot have added "hundreds of billions of dollars to Microsoft's market value." The publications are seeking an unspecified amount in damages and are asking the court to order the defendants to destroy GPT and LLM models that use their materials. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

FCC fines America's largest wireless carriers $200 million for selling customer location data

The Federal Communications Commission has slapped the largest mobile carriers in the US with a collective fine worth $200 million for selling access to their customers' location information without consent. AT&T was ordered to pay $57 million, while Verizon has to pay $47 million. Meanwhile, Sprint and T-Mobile are facing a penalty with a total amount of $92 million together, since the companies had merged two years ago. The FCC conducted an in-depth investigation into the carriers' unauthorized disclosure and sale of subscribers' real-time location data after their activities came to light in 2018.

To sum up the practice in the words of FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel: The carriers sold "real-time location information to data aggregators, allowing this highly sensitive data to wind up in the hands of bail-bond companies, bounty hunters, and other shady actors." According to the agency, the scheme started to unravel following public reports that a sheriff in Missouri was tracking numerous individuals by using location information a company called Securus gets from wireless carriers. Securus provides communications services to correctional facilities in the country. 

While the carriers eventually ceased their activities, the agency said they continued operating their programs for a year after the practice was revealed and after they promised the FCC that they would stop selling customer location data. Further, they carried on without reasonable safeguards in place to ensure that the legitimate services using their customers' information, such as roadside assistance and medical emergency services, truly are obtaining users' consent to track their locations. 

The companies told Fast Company that they intend to challenge the fines. T-Mobile, which faces the biggest penalty worth $80 million — Sprint was fined $12 million — said it was excessive. AT&T said the decision lacked "both legal and factual merit" and that the decision "perversely punishes [the companies] for supporting life-saving location services."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google asks court to reject the DOJ’s lawsuit that accuses it of monopolizing ad tech

Google filed a motion on Friday in a Virginia federal court asking for the Department of Justice’s antitrust lawsuit against it to be thrown away. The DOJ sued Google in January 2023, accusing the company of monopolizing digital advertising technologies through “anticompetitive and exclusionary conduct.” Per Bloomberg, Google is now seeking summary judgment to avoid the case going to trial in September as planned.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said at the time the lawsuit was first announced that Google “has used anticompetitive, exclusionary, and unlawful conduct to eliminate or severely diminish any threat to its dominance over digital advertising technologies.” The lawsuit alleges that Google controls digital advertising tools to such an extent that it “pockets on average more than 30 percent of the advertising dollars that flow through its digital advertising technology products,” according to a press release from the agency last year.

Google now argues that that the DOJ hasn’t shown that the company controls at least 70 percent of the market, which some previous cases have used as the threshold for qualifying as a monopoly, and that the agency “made up markets specifically for this case,” according to Bloomberg, excluding its major competitors like social media platforms. The company also claims the DOJ’s case goes “beyond the boundaries of antitrust law,” Reuters reports.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The FTC accuses Amazon of using Signal’s auto-deleting messages to erase evidence

According to a court document viewed by Engadget, the Federal Trade Commission accused Amazon of using Signal’s disappearing messages feature to conceal communications as part of its antitrust suit against the company. The FTC says the retailer continued to auto-delete its communications even after the agency notified it that it was under investigation and asked it to preserve them. Founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos and current CEO Andy Jassy are among the accused.

“For years, Amazon’s top executives, including founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos, discuss[ed] sensitive business matters, including antitrust, over the Signal encrypted-messaging app instead of email,” the FTC wrote in the full document, acquired by (Bezos-owned) The Washington Post. “These executives turned on Signal’s ‘disappearing message’ feature, which irrevocably destroys messages, even after Amazon was on notice that Plaintiffs were investigating its conduct.”

The FTC wants a federal judge to compel Amazon to provide documents related to its data handling. The government agency says the retailer didn’t disclose its Signal use until March 2022, ahead of a Wall Street Journal article highlighting the covert practice.

“Although the contents of deleted messages are impossible to recover, the app shows when a user turns the disappearing message feature on, off, or changes the timer for deletions, leaving breadcrumbs showing that Amazon executives’ deletions were widespread,” the document reads. “From the messages that were not deleted, it is apparent that Amazon executives used Signal to talk about competition-related business issues.”

The issue appears to be an increasingly common business practice in Silicon Valley. Last year, the DOJ accused Google of routinely destroying its internal chat histories, which it was required to preserve under federal law. In addition, before Elon Musk bought Twitter and changed its name to X, the company asked a judge to sanction the Tesla founder for using Signal’s auto-deletion to withhold messages sent through the app.

In addition to Bezos and Jassy, The Washington Post reports that the full document names General Counsel David Zapolsky, former CEO of Worldwide Consumer Jeff Wilke and former CEO of Worldwide Operations Dave Clark as participating in the practice.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at