Google Bard’s Conversational AI Feature Raises Privacy Concerns

Google Bard, the conversational AI product developed by the search giant, recently underwent a major update that received mixed reviews. However, another aspect of Bard has come under scrutiny: the indexing of shared conversational links by Google Search. This raises concerns about the potential exposure of private information that users intended to keep confidential.

SEO consultant Gagan Ghotra noticed that Google Search has started to index shared Bard conversational links, resulting in the appearance of these conversations in search results. This means that if a person uses Bard to ask a question and shares the link with a designated third-party, such as a spouse, friend, or business partner, the conversation accessible through that link could be scraped by Google’s crawler and become publicly visible to the entire world.

Concerns and Google’s Response

Ghotra posted evidence of several indexed Bard conversations on X (formerly Twitter), which drew attention from Google Brain research scientist Peter J. Liu. Liu explained that Google Search only indexes conversations that users have chosen to share, and not all Bard conversations. However, Ghotra pointed out that most users are not aware that shared conversations can be indexed and appear in search results. Google’s Search Liaison account on X responded by stating that Bard allows people to share chats but does not intend for these shared chats to be indexed. They assured Ghotra that efforts are being made to block the indexing of shared conversations.

A Google spokesperson reiterated this response in an email to VentureBeat, clarifying that shared Bard conversations are not available with the new Google Bard integrations with Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Drive. While Google acknowledges the need for a fix, this privacy oversight does not cast a favorable light on Bard or Google’s consumer AI ambitions, considering the fierce competition from other AI chatbots, such as OpenAI’s popular ChatGPT. It is hoped that Google’s new AI, Gemini, will provide a more secure and private experience.

Updated Weds. Sept. 27 at 4:27 pm ET with additional information provided by a Google spokesperson. A previous version of this article noted the potential for private emails to appear in public Bard search results. However, this mention has been removed based on the new information.

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