Privacy is a very important part of our lives on the internet. And with the explosive growth of ChatGPT, it’s understandable that you may be concerned about the level of privacy you’ll have when using it. So, is ChatGPT anonymous?
ChatGPT is not anonymous. While your information and chat logs aren’t publicly accessible, OpenAI does have access to your chat history — which they use for research purposes — and could look through it if they wanted to. OpenAI also collects personal information, such as your name and contact info.
If you’re concerned about your privacy, don’t worry. I’ve dug into OpenAI’s privacy policies, and you can read my findings below. I also cover strategies to protect your identity when using ChatGPT.
- ChatGPT is not anonymous, and OpenAI has access to your chat history and personal information.
- OpenAI collects and stores your conversations with ChatGPT for research purposes.
- OpenAI collects your personal information, including name, contact info, account credentials, payment card information, and more.
- While OpenAI implements security measures, they are not invulnerable to hacks and data breaches.
- You can protect your privacy by utilizing ChatGPT’s private mode, signing up with fake information, using a VPN, refraining from discussing sensitive information, and considering tools like AnonChatGPT.
Is ChatGPT Anonymous? Here’s What You Need to Know
By default, the information you give ChatGPT is not anonymous.
OpenAI Collects What You Type Into ChatGPT
Considering ChatGPT is currently free to allow OpenAI to perform research using public input, it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re collecting your conversations with ChatGPT.
Your conversations will be saved in their internal servers to train new GPT models.
For practicality purposes, no one at OpenAI is going to care about the random conversations you have with ChatGPT. But if you are putting sensitive information into the chat, you should know that OpenAI can technically view it, and it is technically vulnerable to hacks or data breaches. (More on that in a bit.)
OpenAI Collects Your Personal Information
In addition to the text you input into ChatGPT, OpenAI also collects the following data:
- Personal data: Information associated with your account, including your name, contact information, account credentials, payment card information, and transaction history.
- Log data: IP address, browser type and settings, the date and time of your usage, and how you interact with the website.
- Usage data: The types of content you engage with, the features you use and the actions you take, your time zone and country, the dates and times of access, device information, and your computer connection.
And of course, if you contact OpenAI support, they will collect your name, contact information, and the contents of any messages you send.
This is pretty typical stuff for an online app – if you check the privacy policies of Facebook or TikTok, you’ll see similar language. But if you’re using ChatGPT to have conversations you don’t ever want to be publicly associated with, it’s best to take extra steps to improve your anonymity.
(Stick around – I’ll share some privacy tips in the second half of this article!)
OpenAI Can Keep Your Information For As Long As They Want
The exact language says this:
“We’ll retain your Personal Information for only as long as we need in order to provide our Service to you, or for other legitimate business purposes such as resolving disputes, safety and security reasons, or complying with our legal obligations. How long we retain Personal Information will depend on a number of factors, such as the amount, nature, and sensitivity of the information, the potential risk of harm from unauthorized use or disclosure, our purpose for processing the information, and any legal requirements.”
Because they use their information to train their AI models – and I expect they’ll be training new models for a long time to come – there’s no reason to expect they’ll ever discard your data.
OpenAI Is Not Invulnerable to Hacks and Data Breaches
OpenAI makes it clear that while they use strong security practices, they are not invulnerable to hacks and data breaches.
“We implement commercially reasonable technical, administrative, and organizational measures to protect Personal Information both online and offline from loss, misuse, and unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, or destruction. However, no Internet or email transmission is ever fully secure or error free.”
In fact, it’s already happened. OpenAI announced that a data breach occurred on March 20th, 2023. For a few hours, some users could “see another active user’s first and last name, email address, payment address, credit card type and the last four digits (only) of a credit card number, and credit card expiration date”.
With more than 80% of companies having been successfully hacked, it will be surprising if OpenAI doesn’t suffer even more data breaches in the future. Your interactions with ChatGPT should be made with that reality in mind.
5 Ways To Stay Safe When Using ChatGPT
While the previous sections may have made you feel like there’s no way to remain anonymous on ChatGPT, I’m happy to say there are ways you can enhance your privacy while using the app.
1. Use ChatGPT’s Private Mode
ChatGPT has a “private mode” where it won’t save your chat history (at least on your local device). This mode also means your conversations will not be used in training data, and OpenAI will only store the conversations for 30 days before deleting them.
Enabling private mode is easy. Go to Settings > General > Data Control and switch off the “Chat history and training” button.
If you enable this, you should remember that it only applies to the browser or app on which you enable it. If you login to a different browser, or sign into the app on someone else’s phone, it won’t be enabled. You’ll have to enable it on every browser and device you use.
Note that this doesn’t mean your conversations are completely secure. If OpenAI were to suffer a data breach within 30 days of your conversation, your chat history would be included in that breach.
2. Sign Up With Fake Information
There’s no need to give OpenAI your real information – they’ll give you access to ChatGPT no matter what name or email you sign up with.
If you already have an account, you can make a new one and use a throwaway name, email, and birthday. You will lose access to your chat history, but you may find that worth the tradeoff for enhanced privacy.
You may need to provide a phone number when you sign up. Unfortunately, OpenAI doesn’t accept VoIP phone numbers, so services like Google Voice won’t work. You’ll need an active phone to sign up.
3. Use a VPN
OpenAI tracks your IP address, so you should use a VPN if you’re concerned about being identified.
I recommend Mullvad VPN if you truly care about your privacy. This isn’t an affiliate link; I just genuinely think they offer the best privacy-centric VPN service. You can even pay them with cash or cryptocurrency for extra anonymity.
4. Don’t Discuss Sensitive Information With ChatGPT
If you’re concerned about a hypothetical future where hackers – or an unscrupulous OpenAI employee – gain access to your chat records, it’s best not to put sensitive information into the chat.
Here are a few things you should probably keep to yourself:
- Crucial identification information, such as your social security number or driver’s license number.
- Credit card information
- Your address, phone number, and full name
If you need to discuss a sensitive situation, consider using fake names or information so that you can’t be identified through the chat records but can still get advice. (Remember that it may still be possible to identify you through your IP address or account information.)
5. Use a Tool Like AnonChatGPT
AnonChatGPT is a free tool that lets you use ChatGPT without signing up for an account.
This can provide an extra layer of privacy, as your conversations won’t be tied to your ChatGPT account. There’s also zero risk of OpenAI tracking your IP or other device data, as your inputs are routed through a third party.
However, the service does have a few downsides.
Because the service is free, you can only send a few messages before you get cut off. I tested it out, and I could only send 11 messages before they put me in a 10-minute timeout.
There is also no information about who runs the service. While they claim to not store your conversations, it’s best to stay safe and avoid putting identifying information into your queries.
6. Protect Your Login Information
OpenAI’s security practices aren’t the only thing you need to worry about. Many hackers will try to steal your credentials to access your personal ChatGPT account.
Here are a few account security tips you can use to beef up your defenses:
- Use a strong, unique password for your account. It should be a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using common words or phrases, and never use personal information that could be easily guessed, like your name or birthdate.
- Enable two-factor authentication. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring a text message code in addition to your password.
- Keep your account details up-to-date, especially your recovery email address and phone number. This will help if you ever need to recover your account.
- Regularly check your account activity for any unusual or suspicious activity. If you notice anything strange, report it immediately.
- Beware of Phishing Attempts. Be cautious of any emails or messages asking for your account details. Legitimate companies will never ask for your password. Always check the sender’s email address and don’t click on any links unless you’re sure they’re safe.
In a nutshell, ChatGPT isn’t anonymous and OpenAI can access your chat history, but you can still amp up your privacy game. Use ChatGPT’s private mode, create a fake account, employ a VPN, avoid sharing sensitive info, and check out options like AnonChatGPT.
Remember, OpenAI keeps your data and might face breaches. So, stay smart and safeguard your personal details while enjoying ChatGPT’s features.
Why Does ChatGPT Need My Phone Number?
ChatGPT needs your phone number to verify your account to ensure that each user account is linked to a legitimate individual.
It also helps with account security, as you can set up two-factor authentication (2FA) and make it harder for someone to hack your account.
Is It Safe to Use ChatGPT?
As long as you’re smart about the information you provide to ChatGPT, it’s completely safe to use. Your protection will be enhanced if you use the privacy tips I mentioned above.
The program also has built-in safety features that don’t allow it to provide harmful information.
Should I Use My Real Name on ChatGPT?
If you’re not concerned about privacy, you can use your real name on ChatGPT. However, it’s important that you understand that your personal information and conversations are visible to OpenAI and are vulnerable to data breaches.