Microsoft’s latest Windows 11 mishap causes havoc with AMD graphics cards

Windows 11 is causing trouble for some users with AMD graphics cards, thanks to antics involving installing an outdated driver for Team Red’s GPUs.

What’s happening here is that Windows Update is going ahead with an automatic driver ‘update’ that actually installs an older graphics driver.

Windows Latest explains that it has received reports from readers, and via its forums, complaining about the issue, and also there’s a post on Reddit with some affected Windows 11 users making their feelings known, too.

Those hit by the glitch get an error message from AMD’s Adrenalin software informing them: “Windows Update may have automatically replaced your AMD Graphics driver. Hence, the version of AMD Software you have launched is not compatible with your currently installed AMD Graphics driver.”

In other words, Windows 11 has installed a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) driver, but this is an old version and incompatible with the AMD Adrenalin suite.

The good news is that it’s easy enough to fix this problem, as we’ll discuss next.

Analysis: A fairly easy fix – but don’t forget the extra step

The cure, fortunately, is relatively simple. You need to download the latest AMD Adrenalin driver for starters – then uninstall the current driver, and reinstall the new AMD driver. (Some also advise disconnecting from the internet while uninstalling and reinstalling the graphics driver in this way).

The next and very important step to take is to turn off Windows Update’s automatic graphics driver updates, to avoid this happening again. To do that, in the search box (taskbar), type ‘Device installation settings’ and click on this when it pops up in the panel above.

You’ll be presented with a question asking if you want to use automatic downloads for hardware manufacturers’ apps, to which you should reply ‘no’ (even though it says your device may not work as expected – don’t worry about that). Then click ‘Save Changes’ and the automatic graphics driver update will no longer happen. (If you don’t do this, you might find that Windows 11 changes the driver again, even after you’ve reverted it – and so on, ad nauseum, until Microsoft sorts out whatever the issue is here.)

Why is this happening? Good question, it’s a bit of an odd one. There’s clearly been a mistake somewhere at Microsoft, or maybe something has gone awry with the driver supplied by AMD. Hopefully, the situation will be rectified soon enough, but at least you can cure the problem manually as described above.

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Microsoft’s on a roll with another change that’ll make Windows 11 better

In the future Windows 11 will offer users the ability to ditch the Microsoft News feed from the widgets panel.

Currently, the widgets panel – accessed via the taskbar in Windows 11 – contains a mix of widgets (as you might expect) alongside MSN news stories highlighted by Microsoft.

Windows Central reports that Microsoft has made the decision to give users the choice to drop said news feed. You’ll be able to choose from different layouts for the widgets panel, in fact, some of which will have the MSN news feed in them – and one will be widgets-only.

This is yet another step forward Microsoft has taken with Windows 11’s widgets board in recent times.

Notably, the software giant is currently experimenting with a larger widgets panel, one that’s an extra column wide (three instead of two), giving you plenty of real-estate to view your widget-related stuff. And that’ll be even truer when you can get rid of MSN, and have a large panel entirely dedicated to all your widgets – if you have a lot of them.

Widget fans will also be pleased at rumors – quite strong ones – Microsoft is going to allow them to be dragged onto and pinned to the desktop. Plus we’re also seeing some extra touches like animated icons for widgets coming in, and new widgets from the likes of major players like Facebook. Microsoft is driving hard with this area of the OS, for sure.

Analysis: On the right track

For us, this is another change to Windows 11 which isn’t that hard to implement, and just makes the OS better. More choice is always good, and Microsoft appears to have taken that message to heart with some of its most recent changes from the Build conference this week.

You’ll now be able to choose whether you want to see MSN news in the widgets panel (some regard it as unnecessary bloat, but if you don’t, you can still have those news headline highlights). You’ll also be able to choose whether you want to ‘never combine’ apps on the taskbar (finally). Those right there are two key choices – at least for us – that can tailor the OS to work the way you want.

Now, Microsoft, how about giving us a big old hefty, really important, choice: to turn off any prompts or help – the stuff like badging in the Windows 11 interface, or suggestions that pop up under the Ribbon when you’re using Office, prompts to take a tour of features (that seasoned users really don’t need), anything like that – in one fell swoop, system-wide. A no nag switch, if you will, that also ditches things like messaging to tell you to upgrade to the next incarnation of Windows. Quiet mode, we could call it…

That won’t happen, of course, but hey, we can always hope for something along those lines. Whatever the case, Microsoft is clearly heading in the right direction by giving users more options to turn off stuff they don’t want, or reinstate settings from Windows 10 that were sorely missed by some users. In short, keep up the good work, Microsoft, and give us more of this sort of thing – choice.

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Microsoft’s AI gamble with Windows Copilot could be another Clippy

At Microsoft’s Build 2023 event, the company unveiled its vision for the future of Windows 11: Windows Copilot, making it, as Microsoft claims, the “first PC platform to announce centralized AI assistance for customers.”

From what we know so far, it looks like Microsoft will further integrate its Bing Chat tool into Windows 11. Bing Chat is an artificial intelligence chatbot based on the popular ChatGPT, and Microsoft’s use of it in its Bing search engine has been praised for offering a user-friendly way of using artificial intelligence.

It got people interested in Bing, something Microsoft has struggled to do in the past, so it’s not too surprising that the company is doubling down and further integrating Bing Chat into Windows 11.

According to Microsoft, Windows Copilot will give you a new way to use and configure Windows – so you can ask it to open up a particular app or setting, and you can do this by chatting to Bing Chat as you would a human using a messaging app.

Let’s be honest: the current implementation of search in Windows 11 isn’t great, so anything that improves it is fine by us.

Screenshot of Windows Copilot in use

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Aways there

In other words, it looks like Windows Copilot can detect what apps you’re using and how you’re using them, and offer you advice and information based on that.

That sounds a little creepy, but it could have its uses – for example, if you’re writing up an essay on a subject, Windows Copilot can give you facts and information to help you. Of course, as we’ve seen in the past, AI chatbots like Bing Chat aren’t infallible and can offer wrong information, so always double-check.

Windows Copilot can also be docked to the side of the screen so it can, according to Microsoft, “provide assistance no matter what [a user is] doing – getting inspired, planning, communicating, creating.”

If Microsoft wants us to keep it pinned to the side of our screens, it’ll need to make sure Windows Copilot is genuinely useful and doesn’t get in the way of what you’re doing. We don’t want another Clippy situation, after all.

Clippy was an assistant that Microsoft added to its Office suite of programs. It was supposed to intelligently determine what you were working on, and offer help and inspiration – which sounds a lot like Windows Copilot.

The only problem was, Clippy quickly became disliked by many people, as it would often interrupt while you were working on something – and, even worse, it often gave you suggestions that had nothing to do with what you were doing.

To avoid Windows Copilot turning into another Clippy, Microsoft needs to ensure that it doesn't become too intrusive. That means it shouldn't show pop-ups or take over the screen.

It also needs to be useful – so if it is watching what you're doing, it needs to give context-appropriate help and suggestions. Microsoft has a lot riding on this, so I hope it gets it right.

Microsoft will begin rolling out Windows Copilot in June to people signed up to test out new Windows features.

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Microsoft’s mission to make Windows 11 worse continues with ads in the Start menu

Windows 11 has just received an optional update which applies some useful fixes… but also something a bit more controversial for the Start menu.

As spotted by Bleeping Computer, that’d be what Microsoft describes as “notifications for Microsoft accounts” appearing in the Start menu, a feature that some suspect has a hidden agenda.

What do we mean by that? Well, in the support document introducing patch KB5023778 for Windows 11 22H2 PCs, which is still in preview but will be fully rolled out next month, Microsoft gives an example of a notification: a pop-up panel warning the user that they need to back up their files.

Sensible advice, and of course, it's a good idea to back up your main folders (documents, pictures, and so on) to the cloud every now and then as suggested (and locally too, maybe using an external drive for instance).

You can guarantee, though, that starting a backup from this prompt will try to get you to use OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service. Because as we know, these Start menu prompts are notifications related to Microsoft accounts and connected services like OneDrive.

Past leaks from Albacore (a well-known leaker on Twitter) have also shown Microsoft prodding users (in test builds) to hit up OneDrive in this manner, or to create a Microsoft account (or to complete their Microsoft profile).

Regarding this new feature, Microsoft tells us: “This is only available to a small audience right now. It will deploy more broadly in the coming months. Some devices might notice different visual treatments as we gather feedback.”

The freshly unleashed optional update also provides a bunch of bug fixes, including one for a glitch that affects printers (connected via a USB port) and makes them appear to be multimedia devices.

Analysis: The start of something ominous?

So, this Start menu feature is progressing, clearly. We saw it in the Release Preview channel for Windows Insiders (testers) just a week ago, and now, it’s hitting actual Windows 11 PCs going forward.

Admittedly, it’s still an optional (test) update right now, but it’ll almost certainly be part of April’s cumulative update for Windows 11 deployed in a couple of weeks. Unless Microsoft has a last-minute change of heart and pulls the plug at the precipice of deployment (and at this point, that’s very unlikely).

Of course, it’s only rolling out to a small subset of Windows 11 users initially. Although that in itself is telling – Microsoft is evidently concerned about the response and is still testing the waters in a limited fashion, as it were, with a broader rollout not coming for ‘months’ to boot. The software giant is being careful about this one, and doubtless for good reason.

Maybe we won’t even see these kind of ads – or reminders, as Microsoft couches them – all that often in the Start menu. They could just be very occasional things. We don’t know, and we also don’t know exactly where Microsoft is going to be drawing the line between suggestions or recommendations, and pushing its own services as a form of help to the user which effectively crosses over into the realm of advertising.

Time will tell, but it’s clear enough that suggestions are set to be a big thing in the future for Windows 11 (or indeed Windows 12). Recently we’ve seen further hints of personalized recommendations in the Start menu, including recommended websites to visit (yes, that concept is seemingly back on the table), which again would seem to be ripe territory for what could effectively be advertising.

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Microsoft’s ad plan for Windows 11 is its worst idea since Windows 8 – but all is not lost

Microsoft’s leaked plans to add even more ads into the Windows 11 Start menu has not gone down well, and the less-than-positive reaction could hopefully make the company think twice about implementing the change.

As we reported on March 29, Microsoft has added 'notifications for Microsoft accounts' into a new option update for Windows 11. Despite its rather coy-sounding name, many people saw this as meaning more adverts for Microsoft’s services, such as OneDrive.

However, as Neowin reports, a hidden setting has been spotted in Windows 11 build 23419 that allows you to turn off those adverts. This build of Windows 11 is only currently available to people who are signed up to the Windows Insiders programme to help test early versions of Windows 11, but it could hint that Microsoft is considering adding the option to an upcoming version of Windows 11 for everyone.

Good news and bad

The discovery of this setting could be seen as good news. It means that Microsoft may have anticipated that its move to add more adverts to the Windows 11 Start menu wouldn’t be popular, and decided that adding the option to turn ads off could address some people’s concerns.

Somewhere in the bowls of Microsoft, then, there may be a voice, no matter how faint, that’s saying “maybe we shouldn’t keep trying to push our services so aggressively onto our users.” That gives me hope that not all is lost.

However, it’s not all good news. For a start, when I say this option to turn off adverts is hidden – I mean really hidden. Not only is it supposed to be buried deep in the menus (you have to go to Settings > Personalization > Start), but it won’t even appear unless you use a third-party app called ‘ViveTool’ to make it appear.

Messing around with this app, and using the powerful Windows PowerShell application to make the option appear, isn’t recommended (visit Neowin’s page above for instructions if you are keen), and forcing this hidden option to appear and disable adverts could have unanticipated consequences.

Even if Microsoft doesn’t hide it so completely, it’s pretty obvious that Microsoft wants to have the adverts turned on by default, and hopes that many users won’t know how to turn them off.

We’ll keep an eye on how this develops, but if Microsoft keeps filling Windows 11 with adverts for services its users don’t want, we could soon see an even more vocal pushback against its plans.

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Microsoft’s plan for Windows 11 dominance still has a big TPM problem

Is  Windows 11 being abandoned by gamers? That’s what it looks like on the face of it with the arrival of the latest Steam hardware survey, but there’s a lot more to those stats if you dig under the surface.

Valve’s survey for March shows that Windows 11 has dropped a massive 9.65% for operating system share among Steam gamers, leaving it on 22.41% (shedding almost a third of its hard-fought adoption figures, no less). Meanwhile, Windows 10 is up 11.62%.

Leading to the obvious question – what’s happening here, are folks leaving Windows 11 to revert to Windows 10? Well, no – there’s a strong clue as to what’s going on if you take a look at another part of the survey, namely the language used for the surveyed operating systems.

This shows a huge jump in ‘Simplified Chinese’ which represents 51.63% of the PCs surveyed in March (up 25.35% on the previous month). Whereas ‘English’ language installations have dropped to 22.83% (down a hefty 12.44%).

Of course, the Steam survey takes a sample of a whole different swathe of PCs (rigs whose owners have indicated they want to take part) every time around, which often accounts for variations in percentages. And a big change in the geographical focus of the survey, as seen here, is going to make a major difference no doubt – as we see with Windows 11 adoption.

We do have to consider the possibility that Valve’s March survey is flawed somehow, too – and perhaps the numbers of Chinese installations of Windows have been inflated. There have been theories about this in the past, contending that Valve is potentially misreading installations as Chinese (or that other factors could be at play, such as bots).

Interestingly, though, there’s other evidence of odd shifts in macOS and Linux, particularly Apple’s desktop platform which has dropped heavily.

Analysis: Untrusted Platform Modules?

The biggest impact is clearly that Windows 11 shift, and this makes sense for the Chinese market due to one obvious upgrade blocking factor – TPM.

In China there was a big fuss made when Windows 11 was wheeled out with its TPM requirement, because in that country, they use TCM chips instead – not trusting TPM. (Ironically, we suppose, as technically that makes them UPM or Untrusted Platform Modules).

At any rate, this was a big problem for Microsoft, what with TPM being a hard requirement for Window 11 in order to bolster security levels with the desktop OS. It’s something Microsoft has worked around for enterprise clients in China – that’s far too large a cash cow to ignore – but as for your average Chinese consumer, well, they’ve been left out in the cold. And they’re still shivering there as of 2023, something clearly illustrated by this latest Steam survey, in which the large influx of Chinese PCs has caused such a swing between Windows 11 and Windows 10.

In summary, then, no, gamers aren’t fleeing Windows 11 in droves, but Microsoft still has a big problem in the Chinese market when it comes to TPM and adoption of its newest OS. Clearly, Chinese users are not keen on trying to fudge an installation of Windows 11 without TPM (which is possible, but not recommended).

We weren’t sure what Microsoft was going to do regarding the consumer market in China back at the launch of Windows 11, and we still aren’t sure, but presumably, this is an issue that needs to be addressed at some stage.

Otherwise, Microsoft’s desktop OS dominance in China – a massive market where Windows currently accounts for 82.5% of PC operating systems as of March 2023, according to Statcounter, is surely going to be eroded. Remember, Windows 10 only has a couple of years of support left in the tank.

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Microsoft’s ChatGPT-powered Bing AI gets smarter with more local knowledge

Microsoft’s Bing AI just got some more improvements, including one that should make the chatbot considerably more helpful when it comes to providing tailored recommendations based on your local area.

In a blog post introducing the latest changes, Microsoft acknowledged that it had received feedback telling the company that the ChatGPT-powered Bing needed to do better with local-related queries.

In other words, specific requests such as asking for the whereabouts of a store in your neighborhood, for example.

Microsoft informs us that it has bolstered Bing’s chops in this regard, so it’ll deliver “better answers if you’re trying to find a park, a store, or a doctor’s office near you.”

Other tweaks Microsoft recently applied to its Bing chatbot include increasing the limit of the max turns you can take (queries) in a single conversation from 15 to 20. Based on the allowance of 10 daily sessions, that gives you a limit of 200 turns per day in total.

Image and video search capabilities are also integrated in the chatbot now. These will pop up as answer cards, allowing the user to click ‘see more’ to dive into further detail with a Bing image search.

Analysis: Pushing forward and besting Bard

Obviously beefing up the performance of the Bing AI to do better with local queries is an important move to make. It’s no good having an all-singing and dancing AI (you have asked the chatbot to sing to you already, right?) if it falls down embarrassingly when it comes to making basic recommendations about locations and services near you.

Mind you, the enhanced performance for these kind of queries sounds like it’s in the early stages of getting a good coat of polish. As Microsoft puts it: “Expect us to make further improvements in local grounding based on your feedback.”

Like everything with Microsoft’s ChatGPT-powered AI, then, it’s very much a work in progress. Still, the amount of progress being made is impressively sure and steady, which has got to be a worry for Google.

Google’s rival AI, Bard, has been notably slow off the starting blocks. Indeed, it feels like Google forced Bard onto the starting blocks before it had even laced its trainers, because the firm felt like the new Bing couldn’t be left unanswered, seeing as the ChatGPT-powered AI is already boosting traffic to Microsoft’s search engine.

We’re told that Bard will become more capable, and will receive improvements to its reasoning skills later this week, and it’s clear enough that Google recognizes it needs to move faster with its rival AI. At the same time, it can’t afford any missteps as seen with Bard’s launch (and to be fair, with the Bing AI’s launch too, although Microsoft seems to have recovered pretty well from the mishaps Bing encountered early on).

Our main worry about Microsoft is that the success of the Bing chatbot – so far – could go to the company’s head. There’s already worrying talk of jamming adverts into Bing AI, which we very much hope won’t happen. That’s probably a forlorn hope, and if it turns out that way, this could be an area that Bard could turn to its advantage. That said, it’s not like Google won’t be surveying every avenue of monetization down the line, too – it’d be pretty naïve to think otherwise.

Both companies would do well to remember that these AIs must be perceived as helpful friends, though, and not ones with a hidden agenda. Or, more to the point we suppose, a poorly hidden agenda which becomes painfully transparent…

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Microsoft’s ChatGPT-powered Bing gets a personality makeover you may not like

Microsoft has applied some further fine-tuning to its Bing AI, upping some chat limits and making changes to one of the chatbot’s personalities.

Chats have now been extended to allow up to 15 sessions per day, with the maximum length of a session pushed out to 10 queries (meaning a total of 150 queries is now your daily limit).

Microsoft has slowly but surely been pushing up those chat limits since the AI first launched and it was heavily restricted (to 5 sessions and 50 queries daily) when the chatbot’s behavior was observed going seriously awry in longer sessions.

But the more interesting change, as revealed by Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate VP & Consumer Chief Marketing Officer at Microsoft, is optimizing the ‘Balanced’ personality for better performance.

See more

As you may be aware, there are three personalities available for Microsoft’s AI. Balanced is the middle setting for the chatbot, a halfway house between Precise and Creative, which remain unchanged.

Precise offers more concise and business-like answers, more akin to a standard search, whereas Creative gives the AI more free rein in its replies – with Balanced lying in-between the two as a compromise option.

Analysis: Precise, A Bit Less Precise, and Creative?

As with any compromise, deciding exactly where to draw the line can be a tricky affair. However, it seems that Microsoft is shifting that line to a more conservative position with this latest change.

With Balanced now giving “shorter, quicker responses,” that sounds clearly more in line with the Precise setting, rather than Creative which is where the AI is allowed more freedom to ramble – and frankly, to be more interesting and human-like.

Therefore, moving the Balanced dial more towards the conservative end of the spectrum could be viewed as making the Bing AI a bit more straightlaced and, well, boring.

The whole point of having the three personalities is to give users the choice of how the AI will respond, so if they’re not happy with their interactions with the ChatGPT-powered entity, they can switch things around. But now it feels like there’s slightly less choice in terms of there being a ‘very conservative’ setting, a ‘somewhat conservative’ option, and a ‘freer rein’ choice.

Why has Microsoft moved in this direction? Our guess is that folks who want a more human-like chat experience are using Creative and maybe wouldn’t dream of dipping a toe into Balanced anyway. Perhaps few people are using Balanced overall, so tuning it towards Precise may tempt those on the latter into making use of the middling option – whereas those on Creative are going to stick there, most likely, as they want the AI to be as interesting and open as is inhumanly (ahem) possible.

Whatever the case, we can expect further tuning, and indeed likely other personality choices, down the line. We may even get a mode whereby the Bing AI can impersonate famous celebrities, too, if leaks are on the money. And that would likely help push user numbers even higher, when there are already a good few folks signed up to test drive the chatbot.

Via MS Power User

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Microsoft’s CEO calls Alexa and Siri ‘dumb’ – but ChatGPT isn’t much smarter

In an interview with the Financial Times a few weeks ago, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella dismissed voice assistants, such as Alexa and Siri, as “dumb as a rock”.

This might seem a little rich coming from the CEO of a company that launched (and then abandoned) the unloved Cortana voice assistant, but I actually agree. However, unlike Nadella, I'm not so sure that the new wave of AI chatbots are where the future really lies – or at least not yet. 

Sure, they appear to be smarter than the first bunch of voice assistants, including Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri and Google's (less charmingly named) Assistant, but that's not saying a lot. I was initially really impressed with these assistants, particularly Alexa, to the extent that I put aside my misgivings about how much information Amazon already collected about me, and filled my home with Echo devices of all shapes and sizes.

That all seems a long time ago now, though. Despite all the promise those voice-activated digital assistants had when they launched, I can't help but feel they’ve turned into little more than hands-free light switches and timers for when I’m cooking. They even made me temporarily forget how to use a real light switch. Seriously.

That’s it. I don’t even use Alexa to play music any more. Partly because none of the Echo devices I have come with remotely decent speakers, and also because Alexa seems to have developed a strange habit where when I ask for a song to be played, it more often than not chooses a random alternative take or live version, rather than the studio version I was after. All very frustrating, especially if you're a Bob Dylan fan.

Even as a light switch, I’ve found it increasingly unreliable. I now often have to repeat myself several times before Alexa understands my request and complies. That’s if I’m lucky. Sometimes it listens, then just does nothing.

It’s become more of an inconvenience and annoyance – the exact opposite of what these virtual assistants were supposed to be. To be fair to Nadella, he told the Financial Times that “Whether it’s Cortana or Alexa or Google Assistant or Siri, all these just don’t work. We had a product that was supposed to be the new front-end to a lot of [information] that didn’t work.”

We’re not alone in getting disillusioned with voice assistants. As the Financial Times reports, Adam Cheyer, co-creator of Apple's Siri, says that “the previous capabilities have just been too awkward… No one knows what they can do or can’t do. They don’t know what they can say or can’t say.”

It also seems like the companies behind the voice assistants are losing interest. Not only did Microsoft unceremoniously dump Cortana after years of trying to get Windows 10 and Windows 11 users to embrace (or at least tolerate) it, Amazon has cut a large number of jobs recently, and there are reports that the teams involved with Alexa and Echo devices have been particularly hard hit.

Two wrongs don’t make a right

It may be easy to suggest that Nadella’s dismissal of voice assistants is down to sour grapes, as Microsoft’s Cortana was the least popular out of the ‘big four’ – which also includes Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri (sorry, Samsung, but no one likes Bixby either) – but I certainly agree with him. The shine has worn off.

However, it’s increasingly looking like Microsoft thinks that artificial intelligence chatbots, most noticeably ChatGPT, could solve these problems – and it’s here where I’m going to have to disagree, at least for now.

Microsoft is a big investor in ChatGPT and OpenAI, the company behind it, but when it announced it was bringing the power of ChatGPT to its Bing search engine, it managed something rare: it got people excited about Bing.

Suddenly, people were keen to try out a browser which had for so long been neglected in favor of Google. This surge in interest, plus widespread coverage in the press, has deepened Microsoft’s love affair with ChatGPT.

Having an AI bot that can converse with humans in a life-like way, and use huge amounts of stored data in its own libraries and on the internet to answer questions, seems like the natural evolution of voice assistants.

And, one day it might be. However, the technology has so far not lived up to expectations. People using ChatGPT or the version included in Bing have found the chatbot can give incorrect information, and it can also behave strangely, especially if you challenge it when it replies with the wrong answer. A similar issue emerged with Google’s rival Bard AI, which returned an incorrect answer to a question during the launch event. This quickly became quite embarrassing for Microsoft and Google, and it proved to a lot of us that AI bots are not quite ready for the limelight.

Can’t live up to the hype, sometimes unreliable and even a bit frustrating? That certainly sounds familiar, so if Microsoft and other companies don’t want history repeating, they’d do well to think twice before rushing to implement AI bots in voice assistants.

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ChatGPT is exciting, but Microsoft’s influence is cause for concern

The Artificial Intelligence dream has landed in our everyday lives, and the ethical discussions around AI have ramped up as a consequence, especially concerning how much data these AI services are collecting from users. After all, where there is mass storage of possibly sensitive information, there are cybersecurity and privacy concerns. 

Microsoft’s Bing search engine, which is newly equipped with OpenAI’s ChatGPT, and is currently being rolled out, has brought its own set of concerns, as Microsoft hasn’t had the best track record when it comes to respecting its customers’ privacy.

Microsoft has occasionally been challenged about its management and access to user data, although notably less so than its contemporaries like Apple, Google, and Facebook, even though it deals in a great deal of user information – including when it sells targeted ads. 

It’s been targeted by certain government regulatory bodies and organizations, such as when France demanded that Microsoft ceases tracking users through Windows 10, and the company responded with a set of comprehensive measures. 

Jennifer King, director of consumer privacy at the Center for Internet and Society Stanford Law School, speculated that this is partly due to Microsoft’s longstanding position both in its respective market and long-time relationships with governments afforded to it because of its legacy. It has more experience when dealing with regulators, so might have avoided the same level of scrutiny as its competitors.

An influx of data

Microsoft, as well as other companies, is now finding itself having to react to a mass influx of user chat data due to the popularity of chatbots like ChatGPT. According to the Telegraph, Microsoft has reviewers who analyze user submissions to limit harm and respond to potentially dangerous user inputs by combing through user conversation logs with the chatbot and stepping in to moderate “inappropriate behavior.” 

The company claims that it strips submissions of personal information, users' chat texts are only accessible to certain reviewers, and these efforts protect users even when their conversations with the chatbot are under review.

A Microsoft spokesperson elaborated that it employs both automated review efforts (as there is a great deal of data to comb through) and manual reviewers. It goes on to state that this is the standard for search engines, and is also included in Microsoft’s privacy statement. 

The spokesperson is at pains to reassure those concerned that Microsoft employs industry-standard user privacy measures such as “pseudonymization, encryption at rest, secured and approved data access management, and data retention procedures.” 

Additionally, the reviewers can only view user data on the basis of “a verified business need only, and not any third parties.” Microsoft has since updated its privacy statement to summarize and clarify the above – user information is being collected and human employees at Microsoft may be able to see it.

Under the spotlight

Microsoft isn’t the only company under scrutiny over how it collects and handles user data when it comes to AI chatbots. OpenAI, the company that created ChatGPT, also disclosed that it reviews user conversations. 

Recently, the company behind Snapchat announced that it was introducing a chatbot equipped with ChatGPT that will resemble its already-familiar messenger chat format. It has warned users not to submit personal sensitive information, possibly for similar reasons. 

These concerns are multiplied when considering the usage of ChatGPT and ChatGPT-equipped bots by those working at companies with their own sensitive and confidential information, many of which have warned employees not to submit confidential company information into these chatbots. Some companies, such as JP Morgan and Amazon, have restricted or banned their use at work altogether. 

Personal user data has been, and continues to be, a key issue in tech in general. Misuse of data, or even malicious use of data, can have dire consequences both for individual people and for organizations. With every introduction of a new technology, these risks are increased – but so is the potential reward. 

Tech companies would do well to pay extra attention to make sure our personal data is as secure as possible – or lose the trust of their customers and potentially kill off their fledgling AI ambitions.

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