We respect the intellectual property of others, and expect everyone who uses Discord to do the same. We have a thorough Copyright and Intellectual Property policy and take these concerns seriously.”
In addition, the spokesperson asserts that if Discord’s policy “ever changes, we will disclose that to our users in advance of any implementation."
In a blog post released this past Thursday, Discord announced that it would be introducing several new AI features into its application: Clyde, AutoMod AI, Conversation Summarizes, Avatar Remix, and more.
These new AI features, which are powered by OpenAI technology, offer a host of services for Discord servers. Clyde can recommend playlists, answer questions, have extended conversations, and more. AutoMod AI will have expanded functionality, “harnessing the power of large language models” to alert mods of rule-breaking posts while keeping track of a conversation’s context. And finally, Conversation Summarizes will be gathering messages from chats to combine into a summary for those who’ve been away for a while.
In addition, Avatar Remix, an app “that lets friends remix each others’ avatars using the power of generative image models,” will now be open-sourced.
Privacy issues galore
The first states that “We generally do not store the contents of video or voice calls or channels” and the second is “We also don’t store streaming content when you share your screen…” You can see the statements highlighted in the screenshot below.
This is important because it now means that any information that Discord collects is no longer protected from AI activity. Yes, I’m aware that the blog post was officially edited to state “that Clyde does not record, store or use any voice or video call data from users.” And no, that has no bearing on anything.
By the way, this goes for AutoMod AI and Conversation Summarizes as well, since the sole purpose of those toolsets is to gather as many messages as possible in order to carry out their functions. And who’s to say what else is being done with that information?
Ramifications of privacy loss
This has the potential to be an absolute privacy mess for many reasons. Let me preface this by saying that under no circumstances should you be writing out messages, showing streams of you committing either criminal activity, or sharing private information on Discord. This is still an open internet service, and not sharing sensitive information through properly encrypted and protected sites like Signal is a bad policy.
This data aggregation can also violate your privacy in other ways. All this new data that can now be collected from you can then be turned into data profiles and sold to third parties. This is, of course, something that Discord can already do, as it states that information it collects from you can be shared to vendors and related companies for its own business interests. But now it has a far larger pool of information to collect from – namely video chat, voice chat, streaming, and any other messages that the AI tools collect.
Creative works at risk
Though the privacy violations are the most egregious part of this whole ordeal, there is another issue with one of Discord’s other new tools: the Avatar Remix app. AI tools have repeatedly come under fire for collecting artwork without permission and using it to generate images under the direction of a user.
And literally, the whole point of this app — which will now be open-sourced and therefore used even more than before — is to modify Discord avatars uploaded into it by using “generative image models.” What if your avatar is artwork you drew yourself or someone else drew? Is the AI pulling images uploaded into Discord servers?
There’s no way to definitively know this because this is reflected in Discord’s policies. All we can go by are past and current experiences with other AI image tools, and going by the rampant art theft and lack of artist protection in those cases, this is not setting a good precedent.
That’s not even covering the number of written works that are currently floating around in these servers. Could those works also be aggregated by other AI tools and then repurposed without credit or permission?
I truly love Discord and believe it to be one of the most important sites out there right now. Starting as a simple voice chat service for gamers and evolving into so much more, it’s become an integral part of many people’s lives and a way for people to communicate with others on a global scale.
I’m a part of quite a few Discord communities myself, including several writing ones, and I even run a creative server that encourages others to share their own art, writing, music, and edits with each other. But now those endeavors are in danger of being stolen, our very privacy in video and voice calls stripped away. The same features that gave us freedom of communication will now be monitored and collected.
Now, I would love nothing more than to be wrong about this. If this turns out to be a false alarm, I will take my L in peace. But seeing how tech companies time and again will betray their user bases for a quick profit, I can’t see myself being anything but right. Especially since this isn’t even Discord’s first time trying to make bank on a grift – like that time when the founder and CEO Jason Citron tried to push NFT integration on the platform before backing down after user backlash (opens in new tab).
All I can advise at this moment is to go to your Privacy settings right now and change them. Go to “User Settings” at the bottom of Discord to the right of your avatar. Then hit the “Privacy & Safety” on the left side and opt out of all the “How We Use Your Data” settings there. You can see the menu in the screenshot below.