IBM’s data privacy policy for an AI-powered world

By | 3 minute read | July 30, 2018

IBM is committed to safeguarding your most valuable asset -your data. Not only your business data but your personal information as well. It is a commitment we take very seriously, and we understand the depth of our responsibility related to protecting your content.

Trust and personal responsibility are core values for every IBMer. We earn that trust every day by respecting how our powerful AI platform gives us a competitive advantage while remaining mindful we must use this technology responsibly. When your data is gathered and stored by an IBM application, you maintain data ownership and control over how we use your information.

IBM Watson services (1) are trained and designed to process files such as customer contracts, disclosures, and reports which facilitate transparency and enable us to comply with international laws and policies.

data privacy chart

It’s your data – you maintain control

IBM is a leading provider of products and services which secure corporate data for companies around the world. We understand how if a company’s data privacy is compromised, it can cause irreparable harm to their reputation and loss of competitive advantage.

IBM will not share your data -or any insights we’ve distilled from it -without your permission. When you work with our AI platform, you don’t yield data ownership to IBM to reap the benefits of the insights that Watson provides.

You do have the opportunity to access more profound insights by sharing your data on the IBM Cloud (2) in a shared repository with:

  • Public data
  • Data IBM has licensed for our use
  • IBM corporate data

Security and encryption

All data which Watson interacts is protected by:

  • The highest level of encryption
  • Strict access controls
  • Consent modules developed by IBM security experts
These modules enable IBM to control where data is stored so only authorized users can find, view, edit or delete based on granular permissions.

We equip our data centers with the most sophisticated physical and digital security systems and controls. We monitored our systems, security, and perimeter infrastructure around the clock, every day of the year. You can be assured your data is protected from security breaches and nefarious use.

The Watson 3-Layer AI Model

Watson’s architecture is unique, in that it is segmented into three distinct access layers:

  • The Custom Layer – distinguishes our customers’ private datasets from those which are owned or licensed by IBM. Our customers can customize which data they share, and which data they protect as secured Intellectual Property.
  • The Industry Layer – overlays the foundation of natural language understanding with contextual filters for industries like banking, manufacturing and education.
  • The Base Layer– allows users to access Watson’s foundational natural language understanding functionality.

This bottom-up data filtering approach enhances Watson’s ability to apply selective bias to data within your industry domain, and delivers better insights, faster.


Should you choose to entrust IBM with the use of your data, we will consult with you on exactly how your information will be used to add value to the solutions we build and deploy. By introducing a variety of data sets and information repositories to Watson, it enhances our ability to help your business gain a competitive advantage.

When you upload data is into a shared Watson environment which also stores IBM-owned, third-party and licensed data, you will continue to have visibility to distinguish your information from that which is sourced elsewhere. Any strategic discoveries you make while working with our tools can be used to advance your business compete and grow in your market.

Consent and limited use

You shouldn’t need an AI engine to process a contract to use an AI platform. That’s why IBM agreements are concise and transparent. We make it abundantly clear in our agreements as to what your data will be used for, and the scope of that use, with defined terms and conditions.

We will gladly be held responsible and accountable to those terms, and not use your data, or insights you derive from that data outside of what you consent for us to do. We will also return your data, and/or destroy it at the end of the contract term.

If you require further information about IBM’s privacy practices and policies relating to Watson, or to schedule a consultation, please contact us.

Footnotes: 1. *IBM Watson Data and AI services are those products found on the Watson platform:

2. Privacy information specific to IBM Cloud services is available here:

Maintain control of your data and build your competitive advantage.