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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Facebook Trains Its AI on Your Data. Opting Out May Be Futile

As Meta, the company behind Facebook, continues to develop its generative artificial intelligence tools, you can now request the removal of some of the personal data the company uses to train its AI model. There are a ton of caveats, though.

Earlier this year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to build a range of AI features into Meta’s platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Despite the popularity of generative AI in Silicon Valley, murky legal questions remain for the technology, and many people are anxious about its rapid advancement.

Want to stop Meta from using all of your info to improve its AI? The company added a new form to one of its help centers titled “Generative AI Data Subject Rights at Facebook.” With this form, you can request that Meta give you access to the third-party data it uses for AI development and that the personal information is deleted. The operative word here is “request.” There’s no guarantee from the company that it’ll delete it, or that it’ll provide you with the information you’re asking for, even if it’s yours.

It’s important to point out that this form does not pertain to the gobs of personal information Meta has already collected from you on its platforms; it only applies to outside data the company may bring in to beef up its generative AI. This outside data could include stuff that’s elsewhere on the internet as well as data purchased from third-party data brokers.

You don’t need to be signed in to a Facebook account to submit the opt-out request. All that Facebook requires is your country of residence, full name, and email address. In my experience, the website was quite glitchy on mobile, and it was easier to fill out the form on my desktop. It took the company over 24 hours to send a basic confirmation email stating it was “reviewing [my] request.”

For those in the US, it’s unclear if anything happens at all when you fill out this form. Data privacy laws protecting UK residents make this form more worthwhile for people who live in the UK. “Depending on where people live, they may be able to exercise their data subject rights and object to certain data being used to train our AI models,” said Thomas Richards, a Meta spokesperson, to Gizmodo. Meta did not respond to multiple requests from WIRED to comment on this story.

A company blog post about Meta’s use of personal info to train its AI goes just a little further in detail about its different approaches to personal data collection, but specifics are scant: “In the European region and United Kingdom, we rely on the basis of legitimate interests to collect and process any personal information included in these publicly available and licensed sources to train our generative AI models. For other jurisdictions where applicable, we rely on an adequate legal basis to collect and process this data.”

This opt-out form comes just a few months after European regulators struck Meta with a $1.3 billion fine for misusing data that originated in the UK.

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