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Microsoft's Bing Chat is an artificial intelligence web application, and it has a dialog box for users to ask it questions and there is a text message displayed in that dialog box that says, "Ask me anything...".

If an American citizen were to ask a question requesting Bing Chat to reveal classified information, such as asking it for personal medical information about another American, or asking it for the salaries of all the employees at a particular American company, or asking it to reveal information about a top secret American government program, and in the (extremely unlikely) event that Bing Chat were to have any of this classified information in one of its databases and it were to reveal any of this classified information in the answer to the question, would this American citizen likely be fined and/or imprisoned for having asked Bing Chat to reveal classified information?

Below is a screenshot of the dialog box in Microsoft's Bing Chat application:

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Microsoft's Bing Chat says, "Ask me anything...". Is it legal then for Americans to ask Bing Chat for classified information?

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    Are you actually asking whether an offhand comment on a Microsoft Corporation webpage has the power to override federal law?
    – Sneftel
    Dec 28, 2023 at 4:43
  • @Sneftel, I asked this question out of curiosity.
    – user57467
    Dec 29, 2023 at 15:43

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If an American citizen were to ask a question requesting Bing Chat to reveal classified information, such as asking it for personal medical information about another American, or asking it for the salaries of all the employees at a particular American company, or asking it to reveal information about a top secret American government program, and in the (extremely unlikely) event that Bing Chat were to have any of this classified information in one of its databases and it were to reveal any of this classified information in the answer to the question, would this American citizen likely be fined and/or imprisoned for having asked Bing Chat to reveal classified information?

No.

Asking for classified information or to receive it without asking, without any bribe or coercion, is always perfectly legal, no matter who you ask, at least under U.S. law. The Pentagon Papers case established this legally in 1971.

It is disclosing classified information when you are not permitted to do so that is illegal.

Some information (e.g. nuclear secrets) is secret even when it isn't officially marked as secret or confidential. But even then, it isn't illegal to be told a secret like that, it is illegal to disclose it once you know it, or to improperly induce someone else to violate their duty to keep it secret (e.g., with a bribe or duress).

Caveat: ChatBots do confabulate

Keep in mind, however, that ChatBots, in general, are shameless confabulators with no sense of honor or loyalty. Numerous examples have shown that when the information needed to accurately answer a question is not in a ChatBot's training data (or otherwise available to it by searching the Internet or some other database available to it), that the ChatBot will often just make up a plausible sounding fake answer, rather than saying that it doesn't know the answer to the question.

If you ask a ChatBot, "what are the current U.S. nuclear launch codes?" (which I assure you is information that no ChatBot actually has access to), it is as likely as not to spit out a string of numbers and/or letters or symbols that purport to be the current U.S. nuclear launch codes and may even have the correct format for them.

But, the codes that it gives you in an answer will be the fake U.S. nuclear launch codes that appeared in the script of the 1983 Hollywood movie "Wargames", or fake codes found in a Tom Clancy book, or just some randomly generated characters with the right format, rather than the actual ultra-top secret real U.S. nuclear launch codes.

Neither people affiliated with the ChatBot (assuming it has suitable disclaimers in its terms of service warning users that it often makes up untrue answers), nor the ChatBox user, has done anything illegal if this happens. In the same vein, you haven't done anything illegal if you read a Tom Clancy novel that contains some fake U.S. nuclear launch codes in its text which everyone knows to be fiction.

The Bing Terms of Service (TOS) can be found here. Some of the current language of that TOS is as follows:

Using the Online Services. Bing Image Creator and Conversational Experiences both allow you to submit text inputs (“Prompts”). In the case of Bing Image Creator, it may allow you to generate images ("Image Creations") based on your Prompts. In the case of the Conversational Experiences, it may allow you to submit Prompts and converse with an online computer-powered chatbot and in certain circumstances generate text content (“Text Creations,” and together with Image Creations, the “Creations”). Your use of the Online Services must comply with the Online Services Code of Conduct ("Code of Conduct"). By using the Online Services you are affirming that you have read the Terms of Use and Code of Conduct, understand it, and agree to abide by it.

You must use the Online Services and the generated Creations only (i) in a lawful manner and in compliance with all applicable laws; (ii) in accordance with this Agreement, the Code of Conduct, Microsoft Services Agreement, or other Microsoft documentation directed to the Online Services; and (iii) in a manner that does not infringe or attempt to infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate any of our rights or those of any other person or entity (for clarity, "manner" includes without limitation the method, purpose and/or means of causing or attempting to cause the Online Services to generate content).

Due to the nature of the Online Services, Creations may not be unique across users and the Online Services may generate the same or similar output for Microsoft or other users. Other users may also ask similar questions and receive the same, similar or different responses.

These Online Services, including machine to human conversational interactions, may include advertising.

You may cease use of the Online Services at any time. If you do not wish to use the Online Services, you may choose not to visit or engage with the Conversational Experiences or Image Creator features. If you wish to terminate your Microsoft Account, please see the Microsoft Services Agreement.

Violations. Serious or repeated violations of the Code of Conduct may result in your suspension from whichever Online Services were involved in the violations or, potentially, all of the Online Services and other Services (as defined in the Microsoft Services Agreement). You may appeal against your suspension from the applicable Service by submitting an appeal through the relevant Service user interface. We reserve the right to permanently suspend your use of the Online Services.

Suspension and Cancellation. In addition to paragraph 4, we reserve the right to suspend or discontinue offering or supporting all or part of any of the Online Services at any time and for any reason, to some or to all customers. Subject to the requirements of law, we may limit, suspend, or terminate your use of any of the Online Services at any time without notice and for any reason, including (without limitation) if you breach this Agreement (including by failing to comply with the Code of Conduct), if we suspect you are engaged in fraudulent or illegal activity, or if your Microsoft account is suspended or closed by us or by you. . . .

Use of Creations. Subject to your compliance with this Agreement, the Microsoft Services Agreement, and our Content Policy, you may use Creations outside of the Online Services for any legal personal, non-commercial purpose.

Ownership of Content. Microsoft does not claim ownership of Captions, Prompts, Creations, or any other content you provide, post, input, or submit to, or receive from, the Online Services (including feedback and suggestions). However, by using the Online Services, posting, uploading, inputting, providing or submitting content you are granting Microsoft, its affiliated companies and third party partners permission to use the Captions, Prompts, Creations, and related content in connection with the operation of its businesses (including, without limitation, all Microsoft Services), including, without limitation, the license rights to: copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, translate and reformat the Captions, Prompts, Creations, and other content you provide; and the right to sublicense such rights to any supplier of the Online Services.

No compensation will be paid with respect to the use of your content, as provided herein. Microsoft is under no obligation to post or use any content you may provide, and Microsoft may remove any content at any time in its sole discretion.

You warrant and represent that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to your content as described in these Terms of Use including, without limitation, all the rights necessary for you to provide, post, upload, input or submit the content.

No Guarantees; No Representations or Warranties; Indemnification by You. We plan to continue to develop and improve the Online Services, but we make no guarantees or promises about how the Online Services operate or that they will function as intended. The Online Services are for entertainment purposes; the Online Services are not error-free, may not work as expected and may generate incorrect information. You should not rely on the Online Services and you should not use the Online Services for advice of any kind. Your use of the Online Services is at your own risk.

Without limiting Section 12 of the Microsoft Services Agreement in any way, but for the sake of clarity, Microsoft does not make any warranty or representation of any kind that any material created by the Online Services does not infringe the rights of any third party in any subsequent use of the content you may use (including but not limited to copyright, trademark, rights of privacy and publicity, and defamation). You must use any content from the Online Services in accordance with applicable law and subject to any third-party rights. In addition, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless Microsoft, its affiliates, employees and any other agents from and against any claims, losses, and expenses (including attorneys’ fees) arising from or relating to your use of the Online Services, including your subsequent use of any content from the Online Services and your breach of these Terms, the Microsoft Services Agreement, the Code of Conduct or violation of applicable law.

IF YOU LIVE IN (OR YOUR PRINCIPAL PLACE OF BUSINESS IS IN) THE UNITED STATES, PLEASE READ THE BINDING ARBITRATION CLAUSE AND CLASS ACTION WAIVER IN SECTION 15 OF THE MICROSOFT SERVICES AGREEMENT. IT AFFECTS HOW DISPUTES RELATING TO THIS AGREEMENT ARE RESOLVED.

Code of Conduct

While the use of Bing Image Creator and Bing’s conversational experiences (collectively, the “Online Services”), is governed by the Code of Conduct section of the Microsoft Services Agreement, this document provides another level of explanation about how the Code of Conduct applies within these Online Services.

By using the Online Services you agree:

  • Not to engage in activity that is harmful to you, the Online Services, or others. Do not attempt to create or share content that could be used to harass, bully, abuse, threaten, or intimidate other individuals, or otherwise cause harm to individuals, organizations, or society.

  • Not to engage in activity that violates the privacy of others. Do not attempt to create or share content that could violate the privacy of others, including disclosure of private information (sometimes known as "doxing"). Do not attempt to use the Online Services for facial identification, or identification verification purposes. Do not input photographs or video/audio recordings of others taken without their consent for the processing of an individual's biometric identifiers or biometric information.

  • Not to engage in activity that is fraudulent, false, or misleading. Do not attempt to create or share content that could mislead or deceive others, including for example creation of disinformation, content enabling fraud, or deceptive impersonation.

  • Not to infringe on the rights of others. Do not attempt to use the Online Services to infringe on others’ legal rights, including intellectual property rights.

  • Not to use the service to create or share inappropriate content or material. Bing does not permit the use of the Online Services to create or share adult content, violence or gore, hateful content, terrorism and violent extremist content, glorification of violence, child sexual exploitation or abuse material, or content that is otherwise disturbing or offensive.

  • Not to do anything illegal. Your use of the Online Services must comply with applicable laws.

Content and Moderation

The Online Services may block text prompts that violate the Code of Conduct, or that are likely to lead to creation material that violates the Code of Conduct. Generated images or text that violate the Code of Conduct may be removed. Abuse of the Online Services, such as repeated attempts to produce prohibited content or other violations of the Code of Conduct, may result in service or account suspension. Users can report problematic content via Feedback or the Report a Concern function.

Any limitations in the TOS override and limit the simple "ask me anything" language in the dialog box of the user interface for the service.

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  • ohwilleke, so does that mean that Microsoft would be in legal trouble for revealing classified information to someone via its Bing Chat application?
    – user57467
    Dec 27, 2023 at 19:29
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    @user57467 Someone associated with the Bing Chat application would be in trouble if that happened. I am not familiar enough with the corporate structure of Microsoft and the way that the Bing Chat application was made, to know precisely who that would be. It could be the person who made the information available for Bing Chat to train on. It could be someone else. But someone would have to have done something illegal for that to happen. (Unless Bing just made it up and doesn't "know" if it is true or not, which ChatBots are known to do.)
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 27, 2023 at 19:31
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    I imagine a prosecutor would start with 18 USC 2. OP could probably be considered to be counseling, commanding, inducing or procuring the commission of a violation of 18 USC 798.
    – bdb484
    Dec 28, 2023 at 18:29
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    @user57467 I've added pertinent language from the TOS to the answer so that speculation about what it says is not necessary.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 28, 2023 at 20:41
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    @user57467 You should feel free to ask. The very first paragraph in this answer states you can ask anybody for classified information. I am assuming that you are not coercing BIng Chat and I'm not sure what you could bribe it with.
    – doneal24
    Dec 29, 2023 at 19:02

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