Mar 29, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Congress bans staff use of Microsoft's AI Copilot

Illustration of a gavel striking a square block with the Microsoft logo.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The U.S. House has set a strict ban on congressional staffers' use of Microsoft Copilot, the company's AI-based chatbot, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: It's the latest example of the federal government trying to navigate its internal use of AI while simultaneously attempting to craft regulations for the burgeoning technology.

  • The House last June restricted staffers' use of ChatGPT, allowing limited use of the paid subscription version while banning the free version.

Driving the news: The House's Chief Administrative Officer Catherine Szpindor, in guidance to congressional offices obtained by Axios, said Microsoft Copilot is "unauthorized for House use."

  • "The Microsoft Copilot application has been deemed by the Office of Cybersecurity to be a risk to users due to the threat of leaking House data to non-House approved cloud services," it said.
  • The guidance added that Copilot "will be removed from and blocked on all House Windows devices."

What they're saying: Microsoft hopes the suite of government-oriented tools they plan to roll out this summer will address Congress' concerns.

  • "We recognize that government users have higher security requirements for data," a Microsoft spokesperson told Axios.
  • "That's why we announced a roadmap of Microsoft AI tools, like Copilot, that meet federal government security and compliance requirements that we intend to deliver later this year."

What we're hearing: The CAO's office told Axios that the guidance "applies to the commercial version" but that their office "will be evaluating the government version when it becomes available and making a determination at that time."

Zoom in: Copilot is Microsoft's AI-based assistant, built on top of technology from ChatGPT creator OpenAI.

  • Microsoft has released free and paid consumer versions of the software, as well as a variety of paid options for businesses.
  • Microsoft's Copilot works as a standalone chatbot for the Web and mobile devices, and the paid versions can also work directly within Office apps like Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint.

Zoom out: The issue facing the House parallels concerns that companies have faced, with many opting to block access to consumer chatbots like ChatGPT for fear of data leakage.

  • Many businesses are eyeing or purchasing business versions that come with guarantees that data won't be used to train future models — which opens the risk of data leakage.

Go deeper: Axios Explains: How to use ChatGPT, Copilot and Gemini AI tools

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