Microsoft threatens to restrict data from rival AI search tools

FILE PHOTO: Smartphone is seen in front of Microsoft logo displayed in this illustration taken, July 26, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

NEW YORK: Microsoft Corp has threatened to cut off access to its Internet-search data, which it licences to rival search engines, if they don’t stop using it as the basis for their own artificial intelligence (AI) chat products, according to sources.

The software maker licences the data in its Bing search index – a map of the Internet that can be quickly scanned in real time – to other companies that offer web search, such as Apollo Global Management Inc’s Yahoo and DuckDuckGo.

In February, Microsoft integrated a cousin of ChatGPT, OpenAI’s AI-powered chat technology, into Bing.

Rivals quickly moved to roll out their own AI chatbots as hype built around the buzzy technology.

This week, Alphabet Inc’s Google publicly released Bard, its conversational AI product.

DuckDuckGo, a search engine that emphasises privacy, introduced DuckAssist, a feature that uses artificial intelligence to summarise answers to search queries. and Neeva Inc – two newer search engines that debuted in 2021 – have also debuted AI-fuelled search services, YouChat and NeevaAI.

These search chatbots aim to combine the conversational skills of ChatGPT with the information provided by a conventional search engine.

DuckDuckGo, and Neeva’s regular search engines all use Bing to provide some of their information, because indexing the entire web is costly – it requires servers to store data and a constant crawl of the Internet to incorporate updates. It would be similarly complex and pricey to get together that data for a search chatbot.

Microsoft has told at least two customers that using its Bing search index to feed their AI chat tools violates the terms of their contract. The Redmond, Washington-based tech company said it may terminate the licences providing access to its search index.

If they were cut off from Microsoft’s index, smaller search engines would have a hard time finding an alternative. — Bloomberg

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