WordPress.com to Sell Users’ Data to Train AI Tools

by | Feb 28, 2024

It has recently been reported in the news that “WordPress” is selling user data to OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT. This claim is partially true. WordPress is comprised of two versions: a .org version, which is open-source, and a .com version. For further understanding of the differences, more information can be found here. WordPress.com is owned by Automattic and serves as a web host for WordPress, having been established by WordPress’s founder in 2004. In this post, I will focus on the .com version of WordPress. The news headlines about WordPress selling user data specifically pertain to websites hosted on WordPress.com, not to websites hosted with ClikIT, Cloudways, WP Engine, or any other hosting service (except, of course, WordPress.com).

It has also been reported that the popular Jetpack plugin, owned by Automattic, sends site data and information back to Automattic’s servers, potentially allowing it to be sold to OpenAI for model training. Jetpack’s Terms of Service (TOS) explicitly state, “It is important to note that Jetpack syncs all the data required by all of its features, whether activated or not, to Automattic’s servers.” This means that even deactivated features can result in data being sent back to WordPress.com. *UPDATE: Automattic has indiciated on 2/29/24 that this is not the case.

According to Engadget, owners of sites on WordPress.com are required to opt out, rather than opt in. This is alarming. Using your email to send you messages without your consent is one thing, but taking content from your website to share with a third-party company for scraping, training, and reuse for undisclosed purposes is entirely different.

This does not mean that you should cease using WordPress.org. Rather, it suggests that you should reconsider using WordPress.com. In fact, WordPress.org is the only website builder that offers you complete control over your site. Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress.com, among others, can automatically opt you in (requiring you to opt out) to share your data with OpenAI, Google Gemini, etc., for the purpose of training various AI models.

We also advise you to deactivate the use of Jetpack on your site. It is likely unnecessary. Confirm that you do not use it, then deactivate it. Personally, I find Jetpack to be of little use and have never encountered a situation where it was beneficial. However, it is a mandatory plugin on WordPress.com.

While some companies profit from selling user data, I, along with ClikIT, do not endorse this practice. Privacy and security are of utmost importance to us. While I aim to maintain a friendly and agreeable atmosphere within the WordPress community, this issue is something I cannot support.

Written By Blake Whittle

Owner of ClikIT, Blake has been involved in WordPress since 2014. Once designer & developer, now he manages the team at ClikIT and provides project management & strategic vision to their clients. Now, he's leading the change at ClikIT to become a plugin company.

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