ChatGPT: Departments in Australia given freedom to experiment with AI tool

The policy vacuum could impact refugees warns lawmaker.
Ameya Paleja
law books with a robot hand placing 'AI' down before them
The use of AI tools by governments lacks formal policy in most countries


The federal government in Australia has left it to the various departments to decide on the usage of artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT instead of formulating a common policy for public services, ABC News reported. While the Department of Home Affairs has called the usage "coordinated and monitored," lawmakers have argued that it is being done without any clear "guardrails or protections."

Millions of users have experimented with tools like ChatGPT since it was introduced last year, and private organizations have jumped to make AI an integral part of their products and services to improve productivity and cut costs.

On the other hand, governments have been rather slow in their response to the explosion of this technology and have refrained from putting any moratoriums on its use, even after requests from certain sections of the public. It has now emerged that government departments in Australia have been deploying these tools at will in the absence of a federal policy on their usage.

Which Australian departments are using AI?

According to the confirmation given by Home Affairs, various departments such as Information Computer Technology Division, Refugee Humanitarian & Settlement Division, Data & Economic Analysis Centre, and Cyber and Critical Technology Coordination Centre have been identified as those using ChatGPT.

The usage of the AI tool is "coordinated and monitored," as per the ABC report. Parts of a department have sought access to use the tool for "experimentation and learning purposes" and were looking at the "utility for innovation." The department also said that it was not aware of employees using the tool as part of their everyday jobs.

Former barrister turned politician David Shoebridge has, however, criticized the move and called it "concerning" that the Refugee Humanitarian & Settlement Division was also part of this experiment. Shoebridge highlighted that leak of personal information in such a use case could literally cost lives.

ChatGPT: Departments in Australia given freedom to experiment with AI tool
The use of AI has exploded in recent months

Other departments, such as the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), have, however, prohibited the use of these tools and advised staff not to enter work-related information into such tools using their personal devices.

Interesting Engineering had previously reported instances where employees of private organizations shared confidential information with ChatGPT. Since AI tools use the information entered to train future iterations of their products, the lack of a federal directive on the use of such tools has become a recipe for disaster, Shoebridge told ABC.

Back in the U.S., the White House recently announced that it would hold a listening session to analyze the impact of AI deployment on workers and use the inputs to formulate a national AI strategy.

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