In addition to many of the known limitations outlined below, generative AI may be prone to problems yet to be discovered or not fully understood.
Extra caution should be exercised when working with private, sensitive, or identifiable information, both directly and indirectly regardless of whether you are using a generative AI service or hosting your own model. Although some generative AI tools allow users to set their own data retention policy, many collect user prompts and other user data, presumably for training data purposes. Regardless of data collection and retention policies, USC researchers, staff, and faculty should be particularly cautious to avoid sharing any student information (which could be a FERPA violation), proprietary data, or other controlled/regulated information.
In addition to offering direct access to generative AI tools and services, many companies are incorporating generative AI functionality into existing products and applications. Examples include Google Workspace tools (Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc.), Microsoft Office, Notion, and Adobe Photoshop. Third party plugins and extensions such as GitHub Copilot are also built upon generative AI models. Extra care and caution should be exercised when using these tools for your research and academic work. In particular, the use of auto-completion of sentences and generating text should be avoided unless explicitly permitted or part of the assignment. Similarly, when working with images or video, the use of generative AI assistance should be clearly communicated and properly attributed.
In an attempt to combat undisclosed and inappropriate uses of generative AI content, many organizations have started to develop and promote generative AI detectors. These tools rely on AI to try to flag content as being created by generative AI. Despite good intentions, these tools can be unreliable, and in many cases, have falsely flagged student content as being created by AI when it was originally created by a human. As such, it is inadvisable to rely solely on these tools to identify whether an assignment or other work was created by generative AI.
In April 2023, Turnitin released a preview of their AI detection tool, which is available to USC instructors via the Turnitin Feedback Studio. Additional information about Turnitin and detecting AI generated writing is available on the USC Blackboard Help site.
When in doubt, professors should speak with their student(s) to better understand if and how generative AI tools were used. This can serve as an important opportunity for both parties to discuss the nuances of the technology and directly address any questions or concerns. For additional assistance and resources, professors should contact the Office of Academic Integrity.