People are simply ignoring bans on AI use at work

Employees say they are ignoring AI bans because it makes them more productive and better at their jobsOlder readers may remember a phenomenon called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) which marked the point at which employers gave up worrying about people using their own phones at work and instead made it look like it was their idea anyway. A similar arc seems to be happening with AI, as people simply ignore their employers’ attempts to manage its use. A new poll from comms firm Definition suggests that over half of employed UK adults (54 percent) use tools like ChatGPT at work, despite 25 percent of businesses banning or significantly limiting its use. We have no other information on the methodology beyond that it was of 1,000 people.

Employees say they are ignoring AI bans because it makes them more productive and better at their jobs (63 percent), and is more helpful than their colleagues (19 percent).  Well over a third (38 percent) of respondents think that information given to AI tools is kept confidential. This is not the case – information given to AI can resurface in the public domain at any time.

Many share confidential data, including marketing and sales data (24 percent); market research results (22 percent); employee data including salary (15 percent); customer complaints (18 percent); personal client data (13 percent) and detailed CVs of candidates (13 percent).

Close to a third use gen AI to write emails (31 percent) or use it instead of Google (30 percent). They also use it for analysing data and brainstorming (26 percent), conducting research (25 percent), understanding legal documents (12 percent), and proofreading copy (15 percent).

Luke Budka, AI director at Definition says: “We’re seeing a rise in ‘shadow AI’ in the workplace – workers using genAI tools even though their employers have told them they should not. It’s important users are aware that often everything they enter – whether it’s detail from their private lives or confidential company data – is used to train the AIs and may be regurgitated to other users in future.”

Budka continues: “Business leaders should assume their employees are actively using AI and put measures in place to ensure secure access. And it’s not just ChatGPT they need to be wary of – the new free version of Microsoft Copilot also gives the tech giant the right to use anything anyone enters or outputs in any way they see fit. If you carefully read the T&Cs you realise you’re giving Microsoft, its affiliated companies and third-party partners, permission to ‘copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, translate and reformat’ the content you provide – won’t that be nice when your real life work drama is ‘publicly performed’ or your company’s confidential HR data is ‘publicly displayed’. A serious education piece regards tool usage needs to take place in the workplace and broader society, much like the way we now teach children in school how to safely use social media.”

Some survey respondents work for companies that ban AI tools completely (7 percent), and others have limited or regulated use (18 percent). Other employees are free to use AI tools, with their employers encouraging using it (15 percent). But worryingly, only a few can access their own private environment AI tool (6 percent).