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Dropbox Shares Your Files with OpenAI: How You Can Stop It

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Destiny Young
Destiny Younghttp://linktr.ee/youngdestinya
Destiny Young is a highly credentialed information technology professional with over 13 years of industry experience. An HND/BSc (Hons) Computer Science graduate. He holds a Master of Technology degree in Information Technology from the prestigious University of South Africa (UNISA). He is a Distinction-grade MBA alumnus of Nexford University, Washington, DC, where he also obtained a First-class MSc degree in Digital Transformation. He is currently pursuing MSc in Cybersecurity. His professional development direction is in Cybersecurity, Digital Transformation, and Business Intelligence. He is a member of the British Computer Society (BCS), the Chartered Institute of Administration of Nigeria (CIA), the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), etc.

If you’ve used any of Dropbox’s AI tools, some of your documents and files may have been shared with OpenAI.

If you’ve used any of Dropbox’s artificial intelligence tools, some of your documents and files may have been shared with OpenAI.

There’s a valid business reason the company is working with OpenAI: Dropbox doesn’t have its own chatbot, so to provide chatbot services such as summarizing or answering questions about your files, it needs to send that information to a third party, and then pass along the third-party chatbot’s response to you.

However, there may still be cause for customer concern.

Dropbox AI customer documents pass through and are stored on OpenAI’s servers for up to 30 days. The “third-party AI” toggle is turned on by default in account settings, according to Dropbox’s FAQs, published in October, so you need to turn it off if you don’t want your files going to OpenAI when you use those features.

Dropbox CEO Drew Houston clarified in a thread on X (formerly Twitter) that this data-sharing happens only when users actively engage with the AI features.

“Third-party AI services are only used when customers actively engage with Dropbox AI features which themselves are clearly labeled,” he wrote, pointing to a screenshot.

A spokesperson also added that “customer data is not used to train or fine-tune OpenAI’s language models.”

The news follows a barrage of public discussion and concern over user privacy amid the uptick in use of consumer-facing AI models, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard and Anthropic’s Claude, not to mention companies’ proprietary AI models. In August, Zoom changed its terms of service after it came under fire for allowing its AI models to train on some customer data.

Dropbox’s third-party AI data sharing only applies to users who want Dropbox’s AI features, which is available through many of Dropbox’s paid plans, or through its Early Access program. According to Dropbox, “only the content relevant to an explicit request or command is sent to our third-party AI partners.”

But, even if you’ve opted out, any files shared with another person who is using Dropbox AI could still be sent to OpenAI servers.

In one part of the FAQs, Dropbox writes that for OpenAI, customer data “is never used to train their internal models,” but in another section, the company writes that it “won’t let our third-party partners train their models on our user data without consent.”

Here’s how to turn off use of third-party AI in your Dropbox settings if you have data you don’t want to be sent anywhere outside of Dropbox:

Log into Dropbox.
Click your account icon in the upper right corner.
Click Settings.
Choose the Third-Party AI tab.
Toggle the switch to “off.”

KEY POINTS
If you’ve used any of Dropbox’s AI tools, some of your documents and files may have been temporarily shared with OpenAI.
In some ways, Dropbox’s practices aren’t unprecedented, but customer documents do pass through OpenAI’s servers and are stored there for up to 30 days, and the “third-party AI” toggle is turned on by default in account settings.
Even if you’ve opted out, any files shared with another person who is using Dropbox AI could still be sent to OpenAI servers.

Destiny Young
Destiny Young is a highly credentialed information technology professional with over 13 years of industry experience. An HND/BSc (Hons) Computer Science graduate. He holds a Master of Technology degree in Information Technology from the prestigious University of South Africa (UNISA). He is a Distinction-grade MBA alumnus of Nexford University, Washington, DC, where he also obtained a First-class MSc degree in Digital Transformation. He is currently pursuing MSc in Cybersecurity. His professional development direction is in Cybersecurity, Digital Transformation, and Business Intelligence. He is a member of the British Computer Society (BCS), the Chartered Institute of Administration of Nigeria (CIA), the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), etc.
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