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iHeartMedia bans employees from using ChatGPT for work

Executives have expressed concern that artificial intelligence tools could leak proprietary business information to competitors.

Executives have expressed concern that artificial intelligence tools could leak proprietary business information to competitors.

The San Francisco office of iHeartMedia. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Radio broadcaster iHeartMedia has banned its employees from using ChatGPT and similar artificial intelligence platforms for work projects over concerns that its internal business information could leak to competitors.

In a memo sent to employees this week and obtained by The Desk, iHeartMedia CEO Robert Pittman and CFO Rich Bressler said employees who feed ChatGPT and similar AI programs information about the company’s business could wind up doing more harm than good.

The concerns stem from how AI platforms like ChatGPT evolve through interactions. As users engage more with ChatGPT and similar machine learning tools, the technology develops itself through these interactions.

In the case of ChatGPT, iHeartMedia executives are worried that employees might disclose confidential information about the company’s business to robots who could pass that information on to its competitors.

“If you’re uploading iHeart information to an AI platform, it will effectively train that AI so that anyone, even our competitors, can use it — including all our competitive, proprietary information,” Pittman and Bressler wrote in the memo.

iHeartMedia is in the process of developing its own technology based on AI, Pittman and Bressler said, and those tools will allow employees to leverage the benefits of machine learning platforms while keeping confidential business information under lock and key.

“These enterprise-wide AI solutions will be geared specifically for the needs of our company, as opposed to a general market,” the executives affirmed.

iHeartMedia has already started to leverage machine learning and other AI-based tools in some of its business and consumer products. In January, the company announced it was launching a new voice-powered smart assistant for its streaming radio app. The smart assistant, developed in partnership with Native Voice, first became available to users of certain Skullcandy earbuds.

While the development of AI platforms generally involves collaboration, Pittman and Bressler say the risk of competitors learning internal trade secrets about iHeartMedia’s business through those tools is enough to warrant an outright ban.

“No engagement, development or specific project work which involves ChatGPT or other AI technology is permitted without explicit direction from your team lead,” the executives ordered. “All projects will require an assessment of the business impact and value of the project, a plan for monitoring and evaluating and a prior documented approval from Legal and IT.”

While iHeartMedia isn’t banning employees from using ChatGPT and similar technology in total, Pittman and Bressler did ask for workers to not use AI tools on their work-issued devices, and refrain from putting “any company documents into them, in order to protect iHeart’s intellectual property, partners, data and confidential information.”

“In the past ten years, our company has been transformed through using technology in new and exciting ways, and we expect AI to have that same kind of impact on our business and our work environment,” the executive duo concluded.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).