NEWS: How to Prevent Google Bard from Saving Your Personal Information

October 23, 2023

Google Bard, with its latest update, now enables you to sift through your Google Docs collection, unearth old Gmail messages, and search every YouTube video. Before delving into the new extensions available for Google’s chatbot, it’s essential to understand the measures you can implement to safeguard your privacy (and those you can’t). Google Bard was introduced in March of this year, a month after OpenAI made ChatGPT public. You’re probably aware that chatbots are engineered to replicate human conversation, but Google’s recent features aim to provide Bard with more practical functions and uses. However, when every interaction you have with Bard is monitored, recorded, and reused to train the AI, how can you ensure your data’s safety? Here are some suggestions for securing your prompts and gaining some control over the information you provide to Bard. We’ll also talk about location data, where Google unfortunately offers fewer privacy options.

The default setting for Bard is to retain every dialogue you have with the chatbot for 18 months. Bard also records your approximate location, IP address, and any physical addresses linked to your Google account for work or home, in addition to your prompts. While the default settings are active, any conversation you have with Bard may be chosen for human review.

Looking to disable this? In the Bard Activity tab, you can prevent it from automatically saving your prompts and also erase any previous interactions. “We provide this option surrounding Bard Activity, which you can enable or disable, if you prefer to keep your conversations non-reviewable by humans,” explains Jack Krawczyk, a product lead at Google for Bard.

Once you deactivate Bard Activity, your new chats are not submitted for human review, unless you report a specific interaction to Google. But there’s a caveat: If you disable Bard Activity, you can’t use any of the chatbot’s extensions that link the AI tool to Gmail, YouTube, and Google Docs.

You can opt to manually delete interactions with Bard, but the data might not be removed from Google servers until a later time, when the company decides to erase it (if at all). “To aid Bard’s improvement while ensuring your privacy, we pick a subset of conversations and use automated tools to aid in removing personally identifiable information,” reads a Google support page. The conversations chosen for human review are no longer associated with your personal account, and these interactions are stored by Google for up to three years, even if you delete it from your Bard Activity.

It’s also important to mention that any Bard conversation you wish to share with friends or colleagues could potentially be indexed by Google Search. At the time of writing, several Bard interactions were accessible through Search, ranging from a job seeker seeking advice on applying for a position at YouTube Music to someone asking for 50 different ingredients they could blend into protein powder.

To delete any Bard links you’ve shared, navigate to Settings in the top right corner, select Your public links, and click the trash icon to halt online sharing. Google announced on social media that it’s taking measures to prevent shared chats from being indexed by Search.

This might prompt you to question: If I’m using Bard to locate my old emails, do those conversations remain private? Perhaps, perhaps not. “With Bard’s capability to summarize and extract content from your Gmail and your Google Docs, we’ve taken it a step further,” states Krawczyk. “Nothing from there is ever eligible. Regardless of the settings you’ve enabled. Your email will never be read by another human. Your Google Docs will never be read by another human.” Although the absence of human readers might seem somewhat comforting, it’s still ambiguous how Google utilizes your data and interactions to train their algorithm or future versions of the chatbot.

Alright, now what about your location data? Are there any tools to limit when Bard keeps track of where you are? In a pop-up, Bard users are Section 1: The Choice of Location Sharing with Bard Chatbot

Bard, a chatbot developed by Google, allows users the choice of sharing their precise location. However, even if users decide against sharing their exact location, Bard still has access to their general whereabouts. A page on Google’s support site explains, “In order to provide a response that is relevant to your query, Bard always collects location data when in use.”

How Bard Determines Your Location

Bard determines your location through a combination of your IP address, which gives a general sense of your location, and any personal addresses linked to your Google account. Google asserts that the location data provided by users is anonymized by combining it with the data of at least a thousand other users within a tracking area that spans at least two miles.

The Commonality of IP Address Tracking

While some users may feel uneasy about location tracking, the practice of keeping tabs on IP addresses to determine user locations is more common than one might think. For instance, Google Search utilizes your IP address, among other sources, to respond to “near me” inquiries such as “best takeout near me” or “used camping gear near me.” However, just because this practice is widespread doesn’t necessarily mean it’s universally accepted. This is something to consider when using products like Bard.

How to Mask Your IP Address

Despite Google not offering a straightforward way to opt out of Bard’s location tracking, users can mask their IP address by using a virtual private network (VPN). These tools can be used on both PCs and mobile devices.