Understanding Microsoft Copilot with Data Protection at Virginia Tech


Microsoft Copilot is an online service that uses large language models (LLMs), such as GPT-4, to answer or fulfill requests from you. This article describes

  • How to access Copilot at Virginia Tech
  • What data protections are in place for people at Virginia Tech
  • How to use Copilot at Virginia Tech
  • What data may be used with Copilot at Virginia Tech
  • Additional information


How to Access Copilot at Virginia Tech

Copilot is available to faculty, staff, and students at

Copilot for Microsoft 365 is another version of Copilot that requires a license and is not currently accessible at Virginia Tech.

You must be logged into your Virginia Tech Hokies account to get the best features and security. For browsers, you know you are logged into your Virginia Tech account if when you click on your profile picture or icon in the upper-right corner of the window:

  • You see “Virginia Tech” in the ‘Account Manager’ window that pops up directly below your profile picture or icon.

    Image of the above instructions

  • If you are accessing Copilot either from the URL http://copilot.microsoft.com, http://bing.com, or Copilot in your Edge browser, you know the data protections are in place if you see this image.

    Image of the above instructions

What Data Protections Are in Place for Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech affiliates using Copilot when you are logged into your Virginia Tech account are protected by Microsoft's Commercial Data Protection plan. This plan offers these protections:

  • All data is encrypted in transit (TLS 1.2+)  
  • All chat session data is deidentified and not associated with the user or their domain 
  • Chat sessions are maintained briefly to ensure conversation continuity and the data is encrypted at rest (AES-128) 
  • After the chat session ends, prompts and responses are discarded
  • Chat session data is not used to train the underlying LLMs
  • Copilot uses multiple models hosted in a private instance of Azure Open AI. OpenAI does not have access to these models, or the data processed by them.
  • Search queries ground prompts and responses in the latest data from the Bing search index
  • Citations are added to responses to confirm data sources

What Data May Be Used with Copilot at Virginia Tech

Since using Copilot requires sending data outside of Virginia Tech, this tool should only be used with low-risk data. Using Copilot with any Virginia Tech data sets that are classified as moderate- or high-risk is not authorized. For additional information on how data risk is assessed, please review the Virginia Tech’s Risk Classification Standard.

Low-risk data is defined in this standard as: 

  • data is intended for public disclosure, or
  • where the loss of confidentiality, integrity, or availability of the data or system would have no adverse impact on Virginia Tech’s mission, safety, finances, or reputation.

How to Use Copilot at Virginia Tech

Copilot can still be used at Virginia Tech as a valuable assistant. With Copilot, you can: 

  • Create and edit documents, presentations, emails, and other text-based content 
  • Find relevant information and facts with links to referenced sources 
  • Generate summaries, outlines, bullet points, or captions of content 
  • Check grammar, spelling, punctuation, and style errors  
  • Suggest alternative ideas or paraphrasing of content 
  • Translate text between different languages or converting units and currencies 
  • Explore different topics, themes, or genres for writing 
  • Learn new skills, tips, or tricks to improve your productivity and efficiency 

Additional Information