Photographers Alarmed Over Squarespace’s ‘Auto Opt-In’ of AI Crawlers

A crawler
Web crawlers have become more of an issue in the past few months.

This month, Squarespace added a feature that allows website owners to opt out of artificial intelligence crawlers; however, some photographers are dismayed because the option appears to automatically be set to opt-in.

AI crawlers are bots that collect data from websites which are then used to train generative AI models such as image generators and chatbots. Crawler bots are nothing new but because of the perceived threat that AI poses, websites have begun blocking the crawlers, including PetaPixel.

The issue has risen to the surface because generative AI models have become so good that they can imitate real photography.

Squarespace’s Default Setting for AI Crawlers: Opt-In

Squarespace announced a new feature earlier this month which allows website owners to hide their site from search engines and AI crawlers. However, photographers have found that the default setting for both search engines and AI crawlers is to allow them.

Most photographers will want to be indexed by Google crawlers for obvious reasons but it’s many photographers do not want AI crawlers taking their image data.

Miguel Quiles, a professional portrait photographer based in Orlando, Florida, made a video about the AI crawlers after he was updating his Squarespace website and saw a section he hadn’t come accross before.

“Out of curiosity, I clicked on it to see what it was about and saw the artificial intelligence crawlers option,” Quiles explains in the video above. “What surprised me most is that this option was actually turned on by default.”

Others online have expressed outrage that the default is set to opt-in, Squarespace responded to one critic by saying, “We understand the concern. To clarify, AI models currently train on all public web data. This feature is not actively opting you in, but instead offers you the option to opt out and prevent your site from being crawled by artificial intelligence crawlers.”

Squarespace did not respond to PetaPixel‘s request for additional comment ahead of publication.

How to Turn Off AI Crawling on Squarespace

To change the AI crawler setting on Squarespace, open the settings panel, click “Crawlers”, and from there site owners will be presented with two options: “Search Engine Crawlers” and “Artificial Intelligence Crawlers.”

For users who don’t want their site to be crawled by AI, toggling the setting to off will prevent it. Most will probably want to keep the search engine crawlers toggle left on to help the site’s visibility, as without it Google won’t be able to properly index the contents of the site.

Crawlers can also be blocked by adding a line of code to the robots.txt of the site.