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After Reddit's Data Sharing Deal, Tumblr and WordPress Face Allegations of Breaching User Privacy

A report from 404Media suggests that both platforms have partnered with AI giants OpenAI and Midjourney to facilitate this data exchange.
Cover Image Source: Betraying user trust | Unsplash | Photo by Camilo Jimenez
Cover Image Source: Betraying user trust | Unsplash | Photo by Camilo Jimenez

Social media giants have faced scrutiny in the past for sharing data in a way that sparked privacy concerns among users. Recently, it was revealed that the popular discussion forum Reddit has entered an agreement to sell user data for training AI models. Now blogging platforms Tumblr and WordPress have been accused of betraying user trust by allegedly selling user data to train artificial intelligence (AI) models. The accusation, brought to light by a report from 404Media, suggests that both platforms have partnered with AI giants OpenAI and Midjourney to facilitate this data exchange.

Pexels | Photo by Kerde Severin
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Kerde Severin

The controversy emerged on February 19, 2024, when reports surfaced that Reddit was planning to sell user data to an undisclosed AI company for model improvement. The subsequent uproar on social media prompted further investigation, ultimately revealing Google as the mysterious buyer.

Following this revelation, attention shifted to other social media platforms, leading to the discovery of similar practices allegedly undertaken by Tumblr and WordPress. According to the report by 404Media, insider sources and internal documents indicate that Tumblr and WordPress are on the verge of finalizing deals with OpenAI and Midjourney.

While the specifics of the data being sold remain undisclosed, it is believed that Automattic, the parent company of Tumblr and WordPress, is negotiating arrangements that would involve sharing user-generated content with these AI firms.

Image Source: Facebook | Tumblr
Image Source: Facebook | Tumblr

OpenAI, recognized for its advancements in natural language processing, particularly through models like ChatGPT, is purportedly set to receive textual data from Tumblr and WordPress. Meanwhile, Midjourney, known for its image processing capabilities, would leverage user-generated images from these platforms for its AI initiatives.

However, the implications of such data sharing extend beyond mere privacy concerns, raising questions about user consent, ethical practices, and the monetization of personal information.

Despite the lack of clarity regarding the timeline of these deals, 404Media asserts that Automattic intends to introduce opt-out settings on both Tumblr and WordPress. This feature would grant users the choice to refrain from having their content utilized for AI training purposes. The mechanism involves blocking web crawlers from accessing opted-out users' content, thereby safeguarding their data from being included in the shared dataset.

Image Source: Pexels/Andrew Neel
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Andrew Neel

The allegations against the two companies underscore broader issues surrounding data privacy on online platforms. While these platforms have long served as mediums for self-expression and community engagement, the commodification of user data raises concerns about the erosion of user autonomy and the exploitation of digital footprints for commercial gain. 

"Data privacy, the day-to-day proper handling of personally identifiable information, is something everyone at your organization is responsible for, and policy compliance can be challenging. For larger teams who handle PII, an external auditor can help avoid a damaging and costly breach," believes Jeff Fettes, CEO and founder of Laivly Inc.

Image Source: Pixabay |pexels
Image Source: Photo by Pixabay | Pexels

As users increasingly demand transparency, accountability, and data sovereignty from online service providers, the onus is on companies like Automattic to uphold the trust and confidence of their user base.

In the wake of these allegations, however, the significance of robust data protection measures and informed consent mechanisms cannot be overstated.