Just days after Apple and OpenAI announce partnership, Edward Snowden warns not to trust OpenAI

ChatGPT on iPhone with siri
(Image credit: John-Anthony Disotto)

WWDC 2024 was pretty huge, with announcements made for major upgrades to macOS SequoiaiOS 18, and even some very good macOS gaming support. However, Apple Intelligence, and specifically Apple’s adoption of OpenAI’s ChatGPT was the biggest announcement. But Edward Snowden thinks everyone should be wary of OpenAI, warning not to trust the company.

What's the problem? OpenAI's decided to bring retired US Army General Paul Nakasone, former director of the NSA, onto its board. Snowden tweeted, “Do not ever trust OpenAI.” For the guy who blew the lid off the NSA’s surveillance tactics a decade ago, this is serious shade. According to Snowden, this move is nothing short of a "willful, calculated betrayal of the rights of every person on Earth." Matthew Green, a security expert, seems to agree. He tweeted that AI’s biggest application could be mass population surveillance, making Nakasone’s appointment at OpenAI quite fitting, if chilling.

OpenAI, on the other hand, is singing Nakasone's praises, citing his "world-class" cybersecurity expertise. After all, the guy did lead the NSA and US Cyber Command, so he’s got some serious chops. OpenAI claims this hire is all about improving its cybersecurity to protect AI supercomputers. But Snowden isn’t buying it. He hints that there might be more nefarious motives at play, although he stops short of spelling them out.

What does all this mean?

OpenAI is keeping it's cool, emphasizing its commitment to cybersecurity and responsible AI development. The company says it's all about protecting its systems, securing sensitive data, and ensuring AI models don’t fall into the wrong hands. OpenAI is compelled to share user data with law enforcement, but also offers controls to limit data use for AI training. It's a fine line.

Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room – Apple. While Snowden is raising alarm bells about OpenAI, Apple is cozying up to OpenAI, integrating ChatGPT into iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia. When these updates roll out, Siri will be able to tap into ChatGPT’s knowledge base to help you out. Apple assures us that privacy protections are built-in. User IP addresses are obscured, and OpenAI won’t store requests. Plus, you don’t even need to create an account to access ChatGPT.

So, where does this leave us? On one hand, we’ve got Snowden, the whistleblower-turned-exile, urging caution and distrust. On the other, we’ve got Apple, the tech giant, embracing OpenAI’s capabilities to enhance user experience. The truth probably lies somewhere in the messy middle. If more evidence comes to light, perhaps we'll be able to say for certain one way or another. But keep in mind that Apple’s ChatGPT features will be opt-in when they roll out later this year.

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Connor Jewiss

Connor is a technology writer and editor, with a byline on multiple platforms. He has been writing for around seven years now across the web and in print too. Connor has experience on most major platforms, though does hold a place in his heart for macOS, iOS/iPadOS, electric vehicles, and smartphone tech.