Sep 6, 2023
In the ever-evolving realm of technology, user data and privacy have been constant subjects of debate. As digital innovations expand, companies are continually seeking new ways to use data to enhance their services.
Notably, Alex Ivanovs of Stackdiary, renowned for spotting significant changes in the terms of service of major tech platforms, highlighted this update. His findings have previously illuminated AI-related changes in platforms like Brave and Zoom. His recent observations about X Corp's policy changes have spurred active discussions on platforms like Y Combinator's Hacker News.
The crux of the matter lies in section 2.1 of X’s policy which states:
"We may use the information we collect and publicly available information to help train our machine learning or artificial intelligence models for the purposes outlined in this policy."
This shift raises pertinent questions about X Corp’s future endeavors in AI, especially considering that Elon Musk, the owner of X Corp, has shown aspirations to penetrate the AI market through a separate entity known as xAI. Ivanovs theorizes that Musk’s strategy might involve leveraging X as a primary data source for xAI. This is further evidenced by Musk’s encouragement to journalists to generate content on X, presumably to provide rich data to fuel AI models.
Musk's past statements provide context to this theory. He mentioned that xAI would utilize "public tweets" for training its AI models, aligning with the recent policy updates. Furthermore, Musk's allegations against tech behemoths like Microsoft, accusing them of unlawfully using Twitter data for AI training, and his legal action against anonymous entities for data scraping, further underscore his vested interests in harnessing public data for AI research.
Adding another layer to this narrative is Ivanovs' mention of the xAI homepage content, which intimates a collaborative approach between xAI, X Corp (formerly known as Twitter), Tesla, and other organizations to achieve their overarching mission.
To address rising concerns, Musk confirmed the specifics of the policy change, emphasizing the focus on "just public data, no DMs or anything private."
It's crucial to understand the broader implications of X Corp's decision. Starting next month, this policy will enable X to access specific user biometrics and other personal details. Specifically, X Premium users will be affected by this change. When probed further, the company explained, "X will give the option to provide their Government ID, combined with a selfie, to add a verification layer... This is also to help X combat impersonation attempts and bolster platform security."
This isn't the first instance of a social media giant collecting such data. Stephen Wicker, a data privacy expert from Cornell University, stated, "The announcement is at least an acknowledgement that X will be doing what other social networks have already been covertly doing."
Earlier this year, X introduced a subscription verification model, necessitating users to present government-sanctioned IDs for verified status. The intent, as per X, is to mitigate the proliferation of bots and spurious accounts.
Furthermore, X plans to amass data about users' professional and educational backgrounds, thereby refining its platform services. However, the exact user categories affected by this policy and the extent of data collection remain ambiguous.
Interestingly, X Corp has faced legal scrutiny over its data collection methods. A lawsuit from July accuses the platform of not transparently disclosing its biometric data practices. Notably, Facebook had to settle for $650 million in a privacy lawsuit for unauthorized use of photo face-tagging and other biometric data in 2021.
Wicker aptly summarized the current scenario, asserting that X's latest move is another step in the ongoing trend of mining users for data to power targeted advertising. This practice remains a double-edged sword: while platforms gain lucrative insights, users grapple with privacy concerns.
In this age of rapid technological advancements, the balance between innovation and privacy is delicate. As enterprises such as X Corp chart their course through this landscape, it's equally vital for users to remain vigilant, educated, and proactive regarding their online presence.