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Enhancements to Microsoft Services Agreement Introduce AI Usage Restrictions

Microsoft’s updated Terms of Service, set to become effective on September 30, include new regulations and limitations governing their AI offerings. These alterations, which were made public on July 30, encompass a segment that outlines the concept of “AI Services.” This term is defined within the section as referring to “services designated, described, or identified by Microsoft as incorporating, utilizing, driven by, or constituting an Artificial Intelligence (‘AI’) system.”

The section homes in on five rules and restrictions for Microsoft AI services, saying:

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  1. Reverse Engineering. You may not use the AI services to discover any underlying components of the models, algorithms, and systems. For example, you may not try to determine and remove the weights of models.
  2. Extracting Data. Unless explicitly permitted, you may not use web scraping, web harvesting, or web data extraction methods to extract data from the AI services.
  3. Limits on use of data from the AI Services. You may not use the AI services, or data from the AI services, to create, train, or improve (directly or indirectly) any other AI service.
  4. Use of Your Content. As part of providing the AI services, Microsoft will process and store your inputs to the service as well as output from the service, for purposes of monitoring for and preventing abusive or harmful uses or outputs of the service.
  5. Third party claims. You are solely responsible for responding to any third-party claims regarding Your use of the AI services in compliance with applicable laws (including, but not limited to, copyright infringement or other claims relating to content output during Your use of the AI services).

Microsoft Services Agreement Updates Amidst AI-Focused Changes

The alterations to the Microsoft Services Agreement arrive during a period where shifts in terms of service, specifically those concerning artificial intelligence (AI), are capturing significant attention. A notable instance involves Zoom, a provider of video conferencing and messaging services, which encountered substantial criticism due to inconspicuous adjustments made to its Terms of Service (TOS) in March, centering around AI. These modifications have spurred fresh inquiries into matters of customer privacy, autonomy, and reliance. Recent reports disseminated widely highlighted Zoom’s TOS changes, indicating the company’s capacity to employ user data for training AI without an available opt-out mechanism.

Zoom’s Evolving Position on TOS Amendments and AI

In response to these developments, Zoom has issued a subsequent statement pertaining to its updated TOS and corresponding blog post. The statement affirmed that, following feedback, Zoom has chosen to revise its Terms of Service to underscore that it refrains from utilizing user-generated content—such as audio, video, chat, screen sharing, attachments, and interactive elements—for the training of either Zoom’s proprietary AI models or those of third-party entities. Notably, the policy modifications were designed to enhance transparency and provide users with clarity regarding Zoom’s approach.

The New York Times’ Stance on AI-Related Terms of Service

Recently, The New York Times also revised its Terms of Service in an effort to forestall AI companies from scraping its content for various purposes. The updated clause explicitly delineates that non-commercial usage excludes actions like employing content to develop software programs or AI systems through machine learning. Furthermore, it prohibits the provision of archived or cached data sets containing content to external parties.

Clarification and Intent Behind The New York Times’ Updates

A representative from The New York Times Company communicated with VentureBeat, affirming that the company’s terms of service had consistently disallowed the use of their content for AI training and development. The recent revisions, in part, were undertaken to reinforce and make unequivocal this existing prohibition, aligning with the company’s stance on responsible content utilization in the AI landscape.