X (formerly Twitter) Confirms It Uses Public Data to Train AI

Elon Musk is no stranger to controversy, but his latest move at X (aka Twitter.com) is raising alarms for privacy advocates. X recently updated its privacy policy to state that it will now collect extensive personal data from users, including biometric information, job history, and education. But as first noticed by the vigilant tech watcher Alex Ivanovs, there is another concerning change – X plans to feed this data, along with publicly available information, into its machine learning and artificial intelligence models.

What This News Means

This has all the hallmarks of Musk’s modus operandi. Collect massive amounts of personal data, toss it into an AI blender, and see what emerges on the other side. Musk has already declared his intention to make X an “everything app” along the lines of the Chinese app WeChat. So collecting biometrics and resume-level details on users fits the pattern.

Specifically, the X policy change is found in section 2.1 and reads as follows:

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.

Why This Matters

But why does a social media platform need to delve into developing AI in the first place? This is where Musk’s endgame comes into focus. He also owns an AI company called xAI, which likely lacks the troves of data needed to train robust AI models. Musk has essentially admitted that X user data could provide the missing fuel to supercharge xAI’s AI research.

In fact, Musk is on record accusing other tech firms like Microsoft of scraping Twitter data to train their own AI – and even threatening to sue them. So he clearly sees massive value in all the text, images, videos, and conversations flowing through X’s platform every day. The newly expanded X privacy policy will give him lawful access to both public and now private user data.

Musk’s grand plan is to make X an AI company with a side hustle in social media. He basically confirmed this in a X post defending the changes, saying X will only use “public data, not DMs or anything private.” But that still leaves a vast pool of tweets, bios, likes, shares, and more that X’s AI algorithms can feast on.

Privacy Policies Don’t Protect User Privacy

What’s troubling is that X users never agreed to become lab rats and Guinea pigs for Musk’s AI dreams. They signed up to post their opinions and share cat videos, not to train experimental algorithms. X just moved the goalposts without meaningful consent, as tech firms often do in ever-shifting privacy policies.

This highlights the stark power imbalance between platforms and users. X can unilaterally declare it will psychoanalyze your speech patterns and behavior for AI research. But users have little recourse except venting outrage or leaving the platform. Both options ultimately serve X’s goal of maximizing and monetizing user engagement.

Musk has also shown his willingness to leverage his platform power for political and ideological ends. He could nudge X’s AI models to amplify certain voices and perspectives. This raises profound questions about how AI could warp social media even further away from its original promise.

In the end, are X users content-generators or data-generators in Musk’s eyes? Does he see them as free digital laborers working to perfect his grand AI ambitions? For now, Musk holds all the cards and users have little say in how their data is used and abused. As X continues its growth, lets hope Musk’s hunger for AI doesn’t consume the free and open web many still wish to preserve.

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