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US Congress Bans Governmental Use of Microsoft AI Copilot Over Security Concerns

After the Office of Cybersecurity raised concerned over Microsoft AI Copilot ability to keep data confidential, the commercial version has been banned and the government version will be reviewed soon.

2R4WF4G Valencia, Spain - May, 2023: Microsoft Copilot combines the Microsoft 365 apps, Microsoft Graph and Artificial Intelligence. Isolated 3D logo on a sur

The U.S. House of Representatives has implemented a ban prohibiting congressional staffers from using Microsoft’s AI Copilot assistant, according to a report published by Axios. This move comes amid growing concerns from the federal government about the potential risks and challenges surrounding the internal use of generative AI tools like ChatGPT.

In the guidance issued by the House’s Chief Administrative Officer Catherine Szpindor, Microsoft AI Copilot was deemed “unauthorized for House use” by the Office of Cybersecurity due to potential data leakage risks. Specifically, the guidance cited “the threat of leaking House data to non-House approved cloud services” as the primary reason behind the ban.

The directive states that Copilot “will be removed from and blocked on all House Windows devices.” This decision follows an earlier restriction imposed last June limiting staffers’ use of OpenAI’s ChatGPT to only the paid subscription version, while outright banning the free version. This comes at a time when Microsoft revealed in a blog last week how sensitive data from organizations are protected when organizations choose to use AI Azure and Copilot services. 

Microsoft’s Copilot is an AI assistant built on technology from OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT. It is available as a standalone chatbot for web and mobile devices, as well as integrated versions for paid Office subscribers that work directly within apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Need for the government-specific version of Microsoft AI Copilot

The Axios report further explained how Microsoft is planning to tackle the data leak concerns of the government by rolling out a suite of government-oriented AI tools later this summer which will address cybersecurity and compliance concerns. The present consumer and commercial Microsoft AI Copilot offerings do not meet the House’s requirements.

A Microsoft spokesperson acknowledged the higher security needs of government users, stating, “We recognize that government users have higher security requirements for data. That’s why we announced a roadmap of Microsoft AI tools, like Copilot, that meet federal government security and compliance requirements that we intend to deliver later this year.”

The Chief Administrative Officer’s office clarified that the current guidance “applies to the commercial version” of Copilot, adding that they “will be evaluating the government version when it becomes available and deciding at that time.”

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