OpenAI has now introduced a Personal Data Removal Request form that allows people—primarily in Europe, although also in Japan—to ask that information about them be removed from OpenAI’s systems. It is described in an OpenAI blog post about how the company develops its language models.
The form primarily appears to be for requesting that information be removed from answers ChatGPT provides to users, rather than from its training data. It asks you to provide your name; email; the country you are in; whether you are making the application for yourself or on behalf of someone else (for instance a lawyer making a request for a client); and whether you are a public person, such as a celebrity.
OpenAI then asks for evidence that its systems have mentioned you. It asks you to provide “relevant prompts” that have resulted in you being mentioned and also for any screenshots where you are mentioned. “To be able to properly address your requests, we need clear evidence that the model has knowledge of the data subject conditioned on the prompts,” the form says. It asks you to swear that the details are correct and that you understand OpenAI may not, in all cases, delete the data. The company says it will balance “privacy and free expression” when making decisions about people’s deletion requests.
Daniel Leufer, a senior policy analyst at digital rights nonprofit Access Now, says the changes that OpenAI has made in recent weeks are OK but that it is only dealing with “the low-hanging fruit” when it comes to data protection. “They still have done nothing to address the more complex, systemic issue of how people’s data was used to train these models, and I expect that this is not an issue that’s just going to go away, especially with the creation of the EDPB taskforce on ChatGPT,” Leufer says, referring to the European regulators coming together to look at OpenAI.
“Individuals also may have the right to access, correct, restrict, delete, or transfer their personal information that may be included in our training information,” OpenAI’s help center page also says. To do this, it recommends emailing its data protection staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. People who have already requested their data from OpenAI have not been impressed with its responses. And Italy’s data regulator says OpenAI claims it’s “technically impossible” to correct inaccuracies at the moment.
How to Delete Your ChatGPT Chat History
You should be cautious of what you tell ChatGPT, especially given OpenAI’s limited data-deletion options. The conversations you have with ChatGPT can, by default, be used by OpenAI in its future large language models as training data. This means the information could, at least theoretically, be reproduced in answer to people’s future questions. On April 25, the company introduced a new setting to allow anyone to stop this process, no matter where in the world they are.
When logged in to ChatGPT, click on your user profile in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen, click Settings, and then Data Controls. Here you can toggle off Chat History & Training. OpenAI says turning your chat history off means data you input into conversations “won’t be used to train and improve our models.”
As a result, anything you enter into ChatGPT—such as information about yourself, your life, and your work—shouldn’t be resurfaced in future iterations of OpenAI’s large language models. OpenAI says when chat history is turned off, it will retain all conversations for 30 days “to monitor for abuse” and then they will be permanently deleted.
When your data history is turned off, ChatGPT nudges you to turn it back on by placing a button in the sidebar that gives you the option to enable chat history again—a stark contrast to the “off” setting buried in the settings menu.