ChatGPT: Proceed with caution

If you plan to use artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT or Google’s recently announced Bard, you’ll need to tread carefully. Once you enter anything into these AI-savvy search engines, your entry could become part of the internet! Caution is particularly critical should your “conversations” involve sensitive university data.

Before heading down the chat-bot path, you need to familiarize yourself with a few considerations such as:   

  • Cybersecurity: Be aware that “bad actors” deliberately trick users into installing malicious browser extensions or add-ons that could capture user information shared with ChatGPT.
  • Privacy: ChatGPT uses and stores all input to learn and respond better to future prompts, so don’t assume your entries are private. Entering personally identifiable information is particularly risky. ChatGPT recently had a data breach in which any user could view other subscribers’ names, email addresses and payment information including billing addresses, credit card expiration dates and the last four digits of credit card numbers. These data leaks are not likely to slow down in the near future. See: Italy banned ChatGPT due to privacy concerns.
  • Accuracy: ChatGPT is not always right. Ask ChatGPT to provide references for its responses and then check those resources as well as the information they offer by doing your own research — using resources you know to be well-respected and trustworthy. 
  • NC State data sensitivity levels: At this time you can only submit green (not sensitive) data into these AI tools until cybersecurity, privacy and other factors have been vetted and approved by the campus Data Governance Working Group.

ChatGPT and other AI chatbots offer an immense amount of potential opportunities, but with new technologies, there will be growing pains and change. Don’t fall victim to broad marketing tactics and use common sense. There are countless resources that are evaluating and vetting this type of technology. Leverage those resources, which include the OIT, campus IT directors, and faculty with a research and teaching focus in technology here at NC State.