Automattic isn’t protecting user choice when it comes to gAI

Opt-out is never the answer when it comes to users work, data, and privacy!

MajorLinux - Editor-in-chief
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When it comes to what companies do with our data, I can’t trust them to make the right decisions. Recently, an executive order was issued to keep our data from being sold to countries the US doesn’t do business in. While a great step, what if it wasn’t collected and sold in the first place? But this article is about companies Automattic who still haven’t learned the concept of opt-in.

AI through the years

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a weirdly nebulous term. It is thrown on so many things that just mean a computer did a complex thing without human interaction. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t interact with “AI” all the time. In games, we used to call it the CPU. Most people use a form of it in natural language processing (Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa).

Which leads me to the what may be the most controversial version, generative AI. It’s something I looked at (and still do) as the natural progression of natural language processing. The issue here is that it takes massive amounts of data to train it. Unfortunately, all that data is coming from the public web. It attributes or compensates no one for their work. It then turns around and places people out of jobs as capitalists see another tool to replace employees.

Where Automattic went wrong

And this is where Automattic and generative AI join forces in the worst possible way.

A report earlier this week from 404 Media had accused the company behind Tumblr and of partnering with OpenAI and Midjourney. The partnership included sending data from blogs to these gAI companies for training without the knowledge of users. While the deal is not done, 404 reports that it is “imminent”.

Automattic had all but confirmed this on Wednesday. It had released a blog post called “Protecting User Choice” which talked about AI companies. Automattic was quick to point out that it goes out of its way to block many of these companies from scraping content. However, it did say that it was working with “select AI companies as long as their plans align with what our community cares about: attribution, opt-outs, and control.”

Opt-out isn’t the answer

There’s something to point out here. Automatic says that the community cares about “opt-outs”. As a member of and having talked to and seen discourse from said community, Automattic is wrong here. What the community cares about is “opt-in”. If something is going to affect the user from the user’s perspective, the user should have a say on whether the data can be shared. Opt-outs serve as a way to catch people not paying attention to give up their data. If that hurts the bottom line, that’s on the company.

I do have some “good” news here. First off, this issue only affects people on and Tumblr, a social media company Automattic bought from Verizon back in 2019. Those who are self-hosting using (like all of MajorsHouse’s sites) do not have to worry about this issue. For those who are on the affected platforms, Automattic has issued instructions in its blog post on how to disable data collection.

While I’m glad I don’t have to move at the moment, this certainly is a bad look for Automattic and anything remotely associated with WordPress.

Source: The Verge

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By MajorLinux Editor-in-chief
Marcus Summers is a Linux system administrator by trade. He has been working with Linux for nearly 15 years and has become a fan of open source ideals. He self identifies as a socialist and believes that the world's information should be free for all.
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