AI and Machine Learning
Awareness Training
Data Management
Information Technology

Protecting Your Company's Data in the Age of Generative AI

Being mindful of how your employees interact with generative AI is a prudent step toward protecting your company’s data and reputation.AI tools are capable of synthesizing and processing vast amounts of information, allowing for efficiencies saved time. However, the way your team interacts with these tool can present risks without guidelines in place. Navigating AI without issue may require creating guidelines for use among teams or updating your employee handbook with clear regulations for company-wide use. We will take a minute to discuss how AI accesses and uses information and then provide some helpful hints of what to consider as your organization interacts with AI tools.

First, it is helpful to consider how AI gathers data and presents it. A rudimentary way of considering would be o use Google Bard as an example. When asked, Google Bard shares that is able to glean information from Google Search results, text in written material (Google Books), publicly available data, and its own training data (more on this later).

Using this data the AI notices patterns, for example, the way that certain words go together. So “spaghetti” might frequently be followed by a word like “dinner” or “sauce” or preceded by “Here is a recipe for”. The system makes these type of associations and therefore is able to “understand” queries and produce results using these patterns.

It is important to note that because this is just a pattern matching exercise, accuracy is not guaranteed nor necessarily a priority. It is crucial to fact check the results of an AI chat bot, especially if you are publishing it!

The other important aspect in this pattern making is responding to input. In other words, learning from how users interact. If a user responds that more information is needed, that information is incorrect, that tone is wrong, or that the result was not pertinent to the question, the system logs the response and may use the experience to alter future outcomes.

Example response when asking ChatGPT (4.0) how it learns.

This leads us to an important point. If you put data into a AI system, it’s safe to say that information is no longer private. There is no blanket statement that will cover the policies of every AI model and how it catalogs or uses the data used for a prompt. However, many of these models’ terms of service include sections stating that chat data may be used for training purposes— both for human and machines. While it’s less likely that another user would log on, enter a query, and the AI would serve them up your data, the data may be stored somewhere. When in doubt, don’t provide your data!

Now that we understand a little about AI, here are some pointers in how to develop company policy to defend against potential data breaches and misuse of AI technologies:

Understanding Generative AI and Its Implications

Before setting any policies, it’s crucial for both employers and employees to understand what generative AI is and its capabilities. Generative AI can generate text, images, and other data patterns by learning from extensive datasets. This powerful ability means that AI tools can inadvertently leak, manipulate, or mishandle sensitive information if not properly controlled. Mandating a training course, such as a module for your Security Awareness Training software, is a good place to start.

Establish Clear Usage Policies

Your employee handbook should clearly outline acceptable uses of generative AI in the workplace. Specify which AI platforms are approved and who in the organization has the authority to use these tools. Detail the types of data that should never be input into generative AI systems, particularly proprietary or sensitive information, to avoid any accidental leaks. There should also be guidance of how generated content should be used and what kind of fact checking is required.

Intellectual Property (IP) Considerations

With generative AI's ability to produce derivative works, intellectual property rights can become a grey area. Make sure your handbook includes guidelines on the ownership of content created by AI tools at the workplace, clarifying how these works should be handled and attributed. For example, Adobe Firefly has publicly stated it is generating images using only licensed and public domain content.

Monitoring and Reporting Mechanisms

Implement monitoring systems to oversee the use of AI tools and manage how data is being used and processed. Encourage a culture of transparency where employees feel comfortable reporting any misuse or suspicious activities without fear of reprisal. Outline specific procedures for reporting issues related to AI usage.

Continuous Education and Training

Generative AI is evolving rapidly, and staying informed is key. Training is not a one time event! Regular training sessions should be mandated to keep all employees up-to-date with the latest developments in AI technologies, potential threats, and best practices for safe usage. Again, this can become baked into your SAT, if you have that kind of training in place.

Review and Update Policies Regularly

The field of AI doesn’t remain static, nor should your company’s policies. Regularly review and update your handbook to reflect new technological advancements and changes in data protection laws. This ensures your policies remain relevant and your company stays compliant with legal standards.

Ethical Considerations

Instill a sense of ethical responsibility regarding the use of generative AI. Employees should understand the broader implications of AI, including issues of bias and fairness. Promote ethical usage guidelines that align with your company's core values and the wider community standards.

Don’t Fear the Machine!

Generative AI is an incredibly useful tool. While there has been hyperbole from some tech moguls about the enormity of its impact, leveraging AI can streamline tasks and make for much more efficient business workflows. Especially in the realms of coding, writing, and brainstorming. The easiest way to begin is just to try it out!