May 2023 Privacy Points

It’s nearly impossible to avoid the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) nowadays. A lot of attention and hype has focused specifically on generative AI – such as ChatGPT – and its potential for disruptions to the way we live, work, learn, and play.

While generative AI is a relatively new technology on the scene, the state has spent significant time and resources on a subset of AI referred to as automated decision-making systems (ADS). The report and recommendations drafted by the ADS workgroup and a webinar we held last year on the topic can be found on our website.

From a privacy perspective, this brave new world of generative AI sparks some initial concerns for me, which I’ve already seen play out in the private sector. Namely the inadvertent sharing of confidential information. 

It is actually against several laws to share confidential information with unauthorized third parties. This means that if you are using a tool like ChatGPT, care should be taken to not include confidential information in prompts or drafts. 

For state employees, RCW 42.52.050 (the state’s ethics law) specifically states: “No state officer or state employee may disclose confidential information to any person not entitled or authorized to receive the information.”

Here I want to highlight the definition of “person” in the state ethics law which means “any individual, partnership, association, corporation, firm, institution, or other entity, whether or not operated for profit.”  This definition would include ChatGPT.

In addition, state law and policy require a written data-share agreement before sharing confidential information with a third-party (See RCW 39.34.240 and RCW 39.26.340). Not to mention, all the other laws that apply to certain types of data such as the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as well as other specific state confidentiality laws.

While there is much more to say regarding other potential privacy concerns including accuracy, bias, and transparency, for now I’ll just leave you with the reminder that confidential information needs to be treated confidentially. Always.

Upcoming Privacy Law Training

The Government Lawyers Bar Association (GLBA) is hosting a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) training on Friday, June 2 that is focused on privacy. If you’re interested, please register on the GLBA website.  The cost is $40.

See you next month with more updates!


Katy Ruckle

State Chief Privacy Officer