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Microsoft modifies ChatGPT software for US spy agencies

Published May 8th, 2024 5:50PM EDT
ChatGPT photo illustration
Image: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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A new report from Bloomberg relays that Microsoft recently introduced a customized version of ChatGPT-4 for US Intelligence agencies. One of the key differentiating features is that the modified software is “entirely divorced from the Internet.”

This will allow spy agencies to use it in a manner that protects classified information. Specifically, agencies will not have to worry about their data being hacked or leaked. Additionally, they won’t have to worry about ChatGPT incorporating inputed data into its training and inadvertently using it when providing answers to users not affiliated with the US government.

As Microsoft CTO William Chappell opined: “You don’t want it to learn on the questions that you’re asking and then somehow reveal that information.”

The ChatGPT software runs on a specialized network inaccessible to outsiders and is currently being used by upwards of 10,000 employees across several Intelligence agencies. Still, the software remains in the testing phase as Intelligence agencies will closely monitor its efficacy.

US spy agencies have a strong interest in generative AI software

Notably, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen US spy agencies take a strong interest in ChatGPT and generative AI in general. Just a few months ago, word surfaced that the CIA has been working on AI software similar to ChatGPT. The software is designed to summarize and, in some cases, analyze open-source intelligence reports. The end result is that analysts will be able to crystalize what could otherwise be an avalanche of incoming data and reports.

Speaking to the matter, Randy Nixon of the CIA said the following during an interview a few months back:

Then you can take it to the next level and start chatting and asking questions of the machines to give you answers, also sourced. Our collection can just continue to grow and grow with no limitations other than how much things cost.

We’ve gone from newspapers and radio, to newspapers and television, to newspapers and cable television, to basic internet, to big data, and it just keeps going.

Microsoft says that work on the modified ChatGPT software reportedly took about 18 months to finish. This timeline reveals that Microsoft began work on the initiative immediately after its deal with OpenAI was finalized back in early 2023.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.