Lack of guidance on public AI tools raises risks for firms

Confusion over generative AI in the workplace is simultaneously creating a divide between employees while also increasing the risk of exposing sensitive information, according to research from Veritas Technologies.

The study involved a survey conducted by 3Gem on December 13, 2023, covering 11,500 office workers across Australia (1,000), Brazil (1,000), China (1,000), France (1,000), Germany (1,000), Japan (1,000), Singapore (500), South Korea (500), the United Arab Emirates (500), the United Kingdom (2,000) and the United States (2,000).

In Singapore, 80% of office workers acknowledged using generative AI tools such as ChatGPT and Bard at work – including risky behavior like inputting customer details, employee information and company financials into the tools. 

However, nearly a quarter (24%) not only do not use these tools, but even think their coworkers’ pay should be docked for doing so. 

Also, nearly half (49%) think that those who use these tools should be required to teach the rest of their team on how to use them to create a level playing field.

Regardless of their disposition towards using generative AI, 95% said guidelines and policies on its use are important, but only 43% of employers currently provide any mandatory usage directions to employees.

“Few can deny the benefits of generative AI but critical questions associated with its use, such as ethical and cybersecurity concerns, remain to be addressed,” said Andy Ng, VP and Managing Director for Asia South and Pacific region at Veritas.

“Without guidance on how or if to utilise generative AI, some employees are using it in ways that put their organisations at risk, even as others are reluctant to use it at all,” said Ng. 

The VP added that in order to harness the full potential of generative AI, organisations can put guardrails with effective generative AI guidelines and policies to minimise concerns related to data security and data privacy.”

More than a third (36%) of office workers admitted to inputting potentially sensitive information like customer details, employee information and company financials into generative AI tools. 

This is likely due to more than half (53%) failing to recognise that doing so could leak sensitive information publicly and could cause their organisations to run afoul of data privacy compliance regulations.

While 58% of office workers in Singapore said they use generative AI tools weekly, 20% said they do not use them at all. 

The reason this sizable portion of the workforce is not using generative AI may be because only 62% of the survey respondents have received any guidance from their employers on what’s acceptable and what’s not. 

This has at least two negative outcomes. First, it increases the potential of rifts between employees and negative workplace culture, as 56% said that some employees using generative AI have an unfair advantage over those who are not.

Second, many office workers are not increasing their efficiency with the help of appropriate use of generative AI. 

For example, those who are using it said they benefit from faster access to information (63%), increased productivity (46%), automating mundane tasks (46%), generating new ideas (45%) and gathering advice on workplace challenges (26%).

More than 80% of employees in Singapore say they want guidelines, policies, and training from their employers on using generative AI within their organisations. 

The top reasons cited were — employees need to know how to use the tools in an appropriate way (70%), to mitigate risks (51%) and to create a level playing field in the workplace (30%).