Slack’s AI Overreach: Are Your Chats Really Private?

Slack’s AI Overreach: Are Your Chats Really Private?
👋 Hi, I am Mark. I am a strategic futurist and innovation keynote speaker. I advise governments and enterprises on emerging technologies such as AI or the metaverse. My subscribers receive a free weekly newsletter on cutting-edge technology.

Did Slack just overstep the privacy line by using your data to train AI models?

Slack has turned your private messages into AI training data without your explicit consent, raising serious privacy concerns.

In a startling revelation, Slack has admitted to using customer data—including private messages, files, and other content—for training its AI and machine learning models. By default, this data scraping happens without requiring users to opt-in, leaving many feeling blindsided by what they perceive as a massive breach of trust.

This discovery has set off a firestorm of criticism from users and corporate administrators alike. Despite Slack's assurances that technical controls prevent access to the actual content of messages and files, the realization that such data could be leveraged for AI training has many scrambling to opt out. The opt-out process itself has been criticized for its complexity, requiring workspace owners to send specific email requests to Slack’s customer experience team, which places the burden squarely on the users rather than the company.

The crux of the issue lies in the invasive nature of the data collection. Even though Slack claims the data is de-identified and aggregated, the fact remains that sensitive information from direct messages and other private channels has been used without users' explicit consent. This approach raises significant ethical and privacy concerns, particularly in an era where data breaches and privacy violations are increasingly scrutinized.

Corporate administrators and CISOs (Chief Information Security Officers) are particularly vocal about their discontent. They argue that while it is not uncommon for big-tech vendors to leverage user data for AI development, the onus should not be on customers to opt-out. Instead, Slack should have implemented an opt-in system, ensuring users are fully aware and agreeable to their data being used in such a manner.

Slack’s response to the backlash has been to emphasize that its generative AI products, which rely on large language models (LLMs), do not use customer data for training. They insist that all data used for traditional machine learning models is handled in a privacy-protective manner, with measures in place to prevent any leakage across workspaces. However, this reassurance has done little to quell the concerns of many users who feel their privacy has been compromised.

The broader implication of Slack’s actions touches on a fundamental principle: the right to control one’s personal data. As AI continues to advance and integrate into various platforms, the need for transparent and ethical data practices becomes ever more critical. Users must be empowered with clear, straightforward options to consent to or decline the use of their data. Anything less undermines trust and could have long-lasting repercussions for user confidence and corporate reputation.

So, how should companies balance innovation with privacy? Can transparency and user consent coexist with the drive for advanced AI capabilities? These are questions that need addressing as we navigate the future of data-driven technologies.

Read the full article on Security Week.


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Dr Mark van Rijmenam

Dr Mark van Rijmenam

Dr. Mark van Rijmenam is a strategic futurist known as The Digital Speaker. He stands at the forefront of the digital age and lives and breathes cutting-edge technologies to inspire Fortune 500 companies and governments worldwide. As an optimistic dystopian, he has a deep understanding of AI, blockchain, the metaverse, and other emerging technologies, and he blends academic rigour with technological innovation.

His pioneering efforts include the world’s first TEDx Talk in VR in 2020. In 2023, he further pushed boundaries when he delivered a TEDx talk in Athens with his digital twin , delving into the complex interplay of AI and our perception of reality. In 2024, he launched a digital twin of himself offering interactive, on-demand conversations via text, audio or video in 29 languages, thereby bridging the gap between the digital and physical worlds – another world’s first.

As a distinguished 5-time author and corporate educator, Dr Van Rijmenam is celebrated for his candid, independent, and balanced insights. He is also the founder of Futurwise , which focuses on elevating global digital awareness for a responsible and thriving digital future.


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