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Google stole millions of people’s data to train AI: lawsuit

Google is facing another significant legal action, with lawyers from Clarkson Law Firm representing eight unidentified plaintiffs, including two juveniles, claiming that the company unlawfully used information from millions of online users to educate its artificial intelligence technology. According to a recent court submission in California, the lawsuit asserts that Google (alongside its parent company Alphabet, Inc. and its AI division DeepMind) gathered nearly all aspects of our online presence, including personal and work-related information, images, and copyrighted materials, during the development of AI products like Bard.

“As part of its theft of personal data, Google illegally accessed restricted, subscription-based websites to take the content of millions without permission,” the lawsuit reads.

As per the legal case, the complainants (recognized solely by their initials) shared content on social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. They also utilized Google facilities like search, streaming platforms like Spotify and YouTube, and matchmaking services like OkCupid. The lawsuit claims that Google educated their artificial intelligence (AI) with the individuals’ data and “skills and expertise, as reflected in [their] online contributions,” without getting their permission. Moreover, it’s alleged that Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) systems generated exact citations from a literary work written by a complainant author.

An attorney for the plaintiffs argued on CNN on Tuesday that “Google needs to understand that ‘publicly available’ has never meant free to use for any purpose.”

Law firm management partner Richard Clarkson wrote in a statement, “Google does not own the internet, it does not own our creative works, it does not own our expressions of our personhood, pictures of our families and children, or anything else simply because we share it online.”

Like other legal cases recently initiated against OpenAI and Meta, the most recent collective legal complaint alleges that Google, in addition to direct and indirect copyright infringement, has violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Nonetheless, the latest lawsuit also endeavors to hold the companies accountable for encroachment upon personal and business privacy and “larceny/receipt of stolen property.”

The plaintiff’s attorneys noted that Google “stole the contents of the internet—everything individuals posted, information about the individuals, personal data, medical information, and other information—all used to create their products to generate massive profits.”

According to the lawsuit, the company failed to acquire the approval of the general population for extracting this information for its artificial intelligence products.

The period after the introduction of revolutionary AI systems like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Meta’s LLaMA, and Google Bard has revived discussions concerning the possession of digital information and rights to privacy. It has also raised concerns about the potential impact of these advancements on people’s jobs and livelihoods. An unidentified complainant in the recent legal case alleges that companies like Google extracted their “skills and expertise” to educate the very tools that might render them obsolete professionally in the near future.

The individuals taking legal action, who are not revealed, consist of a writer who achieved great sales with their book as a New York Times bestselling author, a person who is both an entertainer and an educator, and a young child of six years. Besides requesting unspecified reparations and monetary payment, the lawsuit aims to temporarily stop business expansion and gain entry to Google’s collection of artificial intelligence tools. Recently, Google acknowledged revising its privacy guidelines to state that it employs publicly accessible data for instructing and constructing AI creations such as Bard, Cloud AI, and Google Translate.

Google General Counsel named Halimah DeLaine Prado noted in a statement, “We’ve been clear for years that we use data from public sources—like information published to the open web and public datasets—to train the AI models behind services like Google Translate, responsibly and in line with our AI Principles. American law supports using public information to create new beneficial uses, and we look forward to refuting these baseless claims.”

Featured Image Credit: DEPOSIT PHOTOS

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