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July 18, 2023

Privacy Concerns in AI-Driven Document Analysis: How to manage the confidentiality?


Edwin Lisowski

CSO & Co-Founder

Reading time:

15 minutes

As the adoption of AI-driven tools grows, so do the privacy concerns associated with handling sensitive and confidential information. How to embrace the AI potential while mitigating privacy risks effectively?

PwC predicts that AI could boost the global economy by over $15 trillion by 2030 and will reshape the way we live, work, and build relationships unprecedentedly, unlocking creativity and scientific discoveries and allowing humanity to achieve previously unimaginable feats. And it seems like it is not just another overhyped “revolution” that in the tech world is claimed every year.

There is a real arms race in AI areas, but – interestingly – even the biggest tech giants who have already invested substantial amounts of money in AI, for the first time in years were put in a position where they can’t control the narrative.

Microsoft and Google (owned by Alphabet) were forced to readjust their entire corporate strategies to embrace AI, and – as much as Microsoft seems to be a bit ahead (the company invested $10 billion in OpenAI, the organization behind ChatGPT and Dall-E), Google turned on the code red, launched its own AI-based chatbot but nothing big has happen.

Wall Street was also affected. Bankers and investors, previously stunned by post-pandemic e-commerce growth, switched to AI and recognized it as a remedy for the problems caused by inflation, which affected, among other things, the slowdown in the dynamics of e-commerce. Now, AI is the thing that made start-ups interesting for them. The craze started in November after ChatGPT came to light. However, that was just the beginning, as almost every company related to AI – chipmaker Nvidia or Tesla – is posting impressive gains despite an overall macroeconomic downturn.

However, this frantic rise of AI may cause severe harm in data privacy protection areas, especially since Generative AI star-struck customers and business-oriented managers who started to consider it a silver bullet able to optimize or even automate their processes “on the spot.”

Business people, however, easily forget that AI – whether we are talking about Generative AI or “traditional” one – is fuelled by data, and it can be only as good as the underlying data.

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AI privacy concerns

As AI advances, it can make decisions based on subtle data patterns that humans may struggle to discern, resulting in individuals being unaware of their personal data’s impact on decisions affecting them.

AI systems necessitate substantial amounts of personal data, and if this data falls into the wrong hands, it can also be exploited for malicious purposes like identity theft or cyberbullying.

Another challenge is the potential for bias and discrimination within AI technology. AI systems inherit biases from the data they are trained on, leading to discriminatory decisions based on factors such as race, gender, or socioeconomic status. To mitigate bias, it is crucial to train AI systems on diverse data and regularly audit them.

If an AI system is biased or discriminatory, it can utilize this data to perpetuate unfair outcomes, harming individuals and reinforcing systemic inequalities. For instance, an AI-based hiring system biased against certain demographics could exclude qualified candidates based on their gender or race, perpetuating workforce inequalities.

Additionally, bad actors can exploit AI to create convincing fake images and videos, enabling the spread of misinformation and manipulation of public opinion. Moreover, AI can facilitate sophisticated phishing attacks, tricking individuals into divulging sensitive information or falling victim to malicious links.

The creation and dissemination of fake media have far-reaching privacy implications. These fabricated visuals often involve real individuals who may not have consented to their image being used in such a manner. Consequently, individuals can suffer harm through the circulation of fake media, whether it involves the dissemination of false and damaging information or a violation of their privacy.

For instance, consider a scenario where an unscrupulous actor employs AI to produce a fake video depicting a politician engaging in illicit or immoral activities. Even if the video is evidently fabricated, it may still be widely shared on social media, inflicting severe damage to the politician’s reputation. This not only violates their privacy but also holds the potential for tangible real-world harm.

As AI continues to progress, it becomes imperative to remain vigilant in addressing these challenges and ensuring that AI serves the greater good while safeguarding our privacy rights.

Generative AI privacy concerns

With the emergence of Generative AI, especially when ChatGPT has broken the internet reaching 100 million active users within just two months, privacy concerns only grow.

Users, businesses included, are massively attracted to the tool’s advanced capabilities and overly eager to implement the tool into their internet process, and yet just a few of them know how to do that effectively and safely. No wonder – while being starstruck by the huge potential of Generative, Large Language Models included, it is easy to forget that AI is trained using data from the web, and the process can work two-way. Our prompts with all information we reveal within them also “feed” and enhance the AI, and Generative AI models require massive amounts of data to be trained effectively.

Hence, there is always the risk of data leakage, and – when sensitive or private information is included in the training data – the risk is accordingly higher. If the trained model is not correctly anonymized or protected, it could generate outputs revealing personal or confidential information. And being gullible while chatting with AI, it is very easy. Conversational chatbots, such as ChatGPT, are designed to mimic a human-like conversation, which – if combined with immense knowledge and problem-solving abilities – can lead to a false sense of security and temptation users to share confidential information.

The breaches already occurred, which Samsung learned about the hard way, when its employees let the chatbot record meetings and check proprietary code. Soon after the company allowed engineers to use ChatGPT, workers leaked info several times by asking the chatbot to check sensitive database source code for errors for code optimization. A third fed a recorded meeting into ChatGPT for further analysis. Samsung assumed that given data could be used to train the system and perhaps even pop up in its responses to other users. To prevent similar events, it is said the company is exploring possibly building its own chatbot.

ChatGPT privacy policy

ChatGPT – as it says – collects user data from three sources:

  1. account information for premium service users,
  2. information entered into the chatbot,
  3. and identifying data from the user’s device, such as location and IP address.

ChatGPT privacy policy

This data collection is similar to that of other websites, and privacy concerns related to such data collection have been a long-standing issue for social media platforms.

The policy states that ChatGPT may share this data with vendors, service providers, legal entities, affiliates, and AI trainers. However, if users explicitly opt out, identifying information like social security numbers or passwords will not be shared.

In theory, while the chatbot may utilize the information entered by users in ways beyond their control or imagination, the chances of it being traced back to an individual are minimal. OpenAI manages this by anonymizing chat data after a retention period for further use or, if the data is personal, deleting it to protect privacy.

However, determining what qualifies as “personal” can be challenging. For instance, medical questions or sensitive company information entered into the chatbot may inadvertently be disclosed without users realizing that they are sharing private content.

To address this growing concern, OpenAI introduced a feature in May 2023 that allows users to toggle a setting to prevent their ChatGPT submissions from being used by company trainers and AI models as training data. By utilizing this feature, ChatGPT does not enhance its capabilities based on the engagement of those specific users.

Moreover, users also have the option to email themselves their chat history with ChatGPT, providing a record of all the information they have submitted to the chatbot thus far. This allows users to have a comprehensive view of the data they have shared with ChatGPT.

What is AI-driven document analysis?

AI-driven document analysis involves leveraging advanced algorithms and techniques to extract meaningful information from documents, including text, images, and other data. By automating the interpretation and understanding of documents, AI systems can perform tasks that were traditionally carried out by humans but with higher accuracy, speed, and scalability.

One common application of AI-driven document analysis is text extraction. AI algorithms can efficiently extract specific data points from documents, such as names, addresses, dates, or financial information. This capability proves useful in automating data entry, form processing, or invoice management, saving time and reducing errors.

Another key aspect of AI-driven document analysis is natural language processing (NLP). NLP enables computers to comprehend and interpret human language. Within document analysis, NLP techniques are employed for tasks like sentiment analysis, language translation, summarization, and entity recognition. By automatically identifying and categorizing entities such as people, organizations, or locations mentioned in documents, AI systems can extract crucial information and facilitate content organization and retrieval.

Document classification is another valuable application. AI algorithms can classify documents into predefined categories based on their content or characteristics. This categorization aids in organizing extensive document repositories, routing documents to the appropriate departments, or identifying relevant documents for legal or research purposes. With AI-powered classification, businesses can achieve better document management and optimize their workflows.

document classification process

AI-driven document analysis also plays a significant role in fraud detection. By analyzing patterns and anomalies in documents, AI algorithms can identify fraudulent or suspicious activities. For instance, they can detect forged signatures, fraudulent invoices, or potential money laundering attempts. These capabilities enable organizations to mitigate risks and safeguard their operations and assets proactively.

Furthermore, AI-powered document analysis contributes to content recommendation. By analyzing document content and user preferences, AI algorithms can generate personalized recommendations. In the context of content management systems, AI systems can suggest relevant articles, documents, or resources, enhancing user experience and knowledge discovery.

Compliance and risk assessment are additional areas where AI-driven document analysis excels. Organizations can leverage AI algorithms to assess compliance with regulations and identify potential risks. By automatically analyzing documents, AI systems ensure adherence to legal requirements, detect privacy violations, and highlight non-compliant practices, thereby aiding in regulatory compliance efforts.

As AI technologies, including machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision, continue to advance, the capabilities and accuracy of AI-driven document analysis are rapidly evolving. These advancements offer organizations the opportunity to leverage their document assets for improved decision-making, enhanced productivity, and reduced operational costs.

Read more about How AI is revolutionizing document analysis

The importance of privacy in AI-driven document analysis

Documents often harbor personally identifiable information (PII), including names, addresses, contact details, social security numbers, financial data, and medical records. When subjected to AI-driven analysis, these documents become potential repositories of sensitive personal data, necessitating heightened privacy and security measures to protect against unauthorized access and usage.

The risks of data breaches and unauthorized access pose a significant threat to privacy. Given the voluminous data involved in AI-driven document analysis, the absence of robust security measures can lead to data breaches where unauthorized individuals gain illicit access to confidential information. Such breaches may culminate in identity theft, financial fraud, or other grave privacy violations, underscoring the need for stringent security protocols.

Another AI privacy concern lies in data retention and storage practices. Document analysis systems often retain and store documents and associated data for future reference or analysis. Extended data retention periods amplify the risk of unauthorized access or misuse. Organizations must institute meticulous data retention policies and implement secure data storage mechanisms to protect the privacy of individuals whose data is contained within these documents.

The potential for secondary use of data compounds AI privacy concerns. Document analysis systems may initially collect and process data for a specific purpose. Still, there exists a risk that the data could be subsequently used for secondary purposes without individuals’ knowledge or consent. Transparency and informed consent mechanisms are crucial in ensuring individuals know how their data is utilized and granting them control over its usage.

The lack of control and consent is a pressing concern in AI-driven document analysis. Individuals may have limited control over their documents once submitted or shared for analysis. It is essential to ensure that individuals are fully informed about the purposes of document analysis, allowing them to provide informed consent and offering mechanisms to opt-out if they choose to do so.

How to deal with AI privacy concerns in document analysis?

Here are some key steps to address AI privacy concerns in this context:

key steps to address AI privacy concerns

Data minimization

Collect and retain only the minimum amount of data necessary for the analysis. Limit the scope of data collection to relevant information and avoid collecting personally identifiable information (PII) or sensitive data unless necessary.

Anonymization and Pseudonymization

Remove or encrypt any identifiable information in the documents before the AI system processes them. This can involve anonymizing names, addresses, or other personal details or replacing them with pseudonyms or tokens.

Secure data storage

Implement robust security measures to protect the stored data. Encrypt the data at rest and in transit, and enforce strict access controls to ensure that only authorized personnel can access the data. Regularly monitor and audit the system to detect any unauthorized access attempts.

Informed consent

Obtain informed consent from individuals whose documents are being analyzed whenever possible. Clearly explain the purpose of the analysis, the types of data that will be processed, and how their privacy will be protected. Allow individuals to opt out if they choose to do so.

Compliance with regulations

Familiarize yourself with relevant privacy regulations and ensure that your document analysis process adheres to them. Depending on the jurisdiction, this might include regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States.

Transparency and Explainability

Provide clear information about how the AI system works and what kind of analysis it performs. Ensure that individuals understand how their data is being used and how the system reaches its conclusions. Consider providing individuals with the ability to request explanations for decisions made by the AI system.

Regular auditing and Assessment

Conduct regular privacy assessments and audits to identify and mitigate potential AI privacy concerns risks. Continuously monitor the system’s performance and data handling practices to ensure ongoing compliance and address any emerging artificial intelligence privacy concerns.

Ethical considerations

Take into account the ethical implications of your document analysis. Strive to be transparent, fair, and unbiased in the analysis process. Avoid using the AI system to discriminate against individuals or perpetuate existing biases.

Employee training and Awareness

Train your employees and personnel involved in the document analysis on privacy best practices. Make sure they understand the importance of privacy protection and their responsibilities in handling sensitive data.

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Federated Learning

Federated learning is a method that can be employed to address artificial intelligence privacy concerns in document analysis by preserving data privacy while enabling collaborative model training.

Adopting privacy-preserving techniques such as federated learning can help alleviate privacy concerns. Federated learning is a decentralized machine learning approach that allows models to be trained across multiple devices or edge nodes while keeping the data on those devices. Instead of sending raw data from individual devices to a central server for training, federated learning enables the training to occur directly on the user’s device or at the edge.

Federated learning typically involves the following steps:

Federated learning process

  • Initialization
    A global model is created and initialized on a central server or in the cloud.
  • Distribution
    The initialized global model is sent to participating devices or edge nodes, which have locally collected data.
  • Local Training
    Each device performs local training on its own data using the received global model. The local training process can include multiple iterations or epochs to improve the model’s performance on the device’s specific data.
  • Model Updates
    After local training, the devices send only the model updates or gradients (not the raw data) back to the central server.
  • Aggregation
    The central server aggregates the received model updates from multiple devices, combining them to create an updated global model.
  • Iteration
    Steps 2-5 are repeated for a defined number of iterations, allowing the global model to be refined based on the collective knowledge from all the participating devices.

Avoiding sending raw data to a central server helps address privacy concerns associated with centralized data storage and processing. User data remains on the device, reducing the risk of data breaches or unauthorized access. Additionally, federated learning enables training on devices with limited or intermittent connectivity, making it suitable for edge computing scenarios.


AI-driven document analysis offers immense potential for organizations to derive valuable insights from vast amounts of textual data. However, to harness the benefits of this technology while preserving confidentiality, organizations must prioritize privacy management. By implementing strategies such as data anonymization, secure storage, privacy by design, and transparent user consent, organizations can effectively manage the artificial intelligence privacy concerns associated with AI-driven document analysis, fostering trust and compliance with privacy regulations.

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