Italy becomes first country to curb ChatGPT over privacy concerns
Updated 14:15, 01-Apr-2023
The OpenAI ChatGPT logo. /CFP
The OpenAI ChatGPT logo. /CFP

The OpenAI ChatGPT logo. /CFP

OpenAI has taken ChatGPT offline in Italy after the government's Data Protection Authority on Friday temporarily banned the chatbot and launched a probe over the artificial intelligence application's suspected breach of privacy rules.

The agency, also known as Garante, accused Microsoft-backed OpenAI of failing to check the age of ChatGPT's users who are supposed to be aged 13 or above.

ChatGPT has an "absence of any legal basis that justifies the massive collection and storage of personal data" to "train" the chatbot, Garante said. OpenAI has 20 days to respond with remedies or could risk a fine of up to 20 million euros ($21.68 million) or 4 percent of its annual worldwide turnover.

OpenAI said it has disabled ChatGPT for users in Italy at the request of the Garante.

The website could not be reached in Italy. A notice on the ChatGPT webpage said the website's owner may have set restrictions that prevent users from accessing the site.

"We actively work to reduce personal data in training our AI systems like ChatGPT because we want our AI to learn about the world, not about private individuals," OpenAI added.

While some public schools and universities around the world have blocked ChatGPT from their local networks over student plagiarism concerns, Italy's action is "the first nation-scale restriction of a mainstream AI platform by a democracy," said Alp Toker, director of the advocacy group NetBlocks, which monitors internet access worldwide.

Regulation on the way?

Since its release last year, ChatGPT has set off a tech craze, prompting rivals to launch similar products and companies to integrate it or similar technologies into their apps and products.

The rapid development of the technology has attracted attention from lawmakers in several countries. Many experts say new regulations are needed to govern AI because of its potential impact on national security, jobs and education.

"We expect all companies active in the EU to respect EU data protection rules. The enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation is the responsibility of EU data protection authorities," a European Commission spokesperson said.

The Commission, which is debating the EU AI Act, may not be inclined to ban AI, European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager tweeted.

"No matter which #tech we use, we have to continue to advance our freedoms & protect our rights. That's why we don't regulate #AI technologies, we regulate the uses of #AI," she said. "Let's not throw away in a few years what has taken decades to build."

On Wednesday, Elon Musk and a group of artificial intelligence experts and industry executives called for a six-month pause in developing systems more powerful than OpenAI's newly launched GPT-4, in an open letter citing potential risks to society.

European consumer group BEUC called Thursday for EU authorities and the bloc's 27 member nations to investigate ChatGPT and similar AI chatbots. BEUC said it could be years before the EU's AI legislation takes effect, so authorities need to act faster to protect consumers from possible risks.

"In only a few months, we have seen a massive take-up of ChatGPT, and this is only the beginning," Deputy Director General Ursula Pachl said.

Waiting for the EU's AI Act "is not good enough as there are serious concerns growing about how ChatGPT and similar chatbots might deceive and manipulate people."

Source(s): Reuters ,AP

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