Italy became the first European country on Friday to ban OpenAI’s popular artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, ChatGPT, in the country “with immediate effect” over privacy violations, cybercrimes, and misinformation.
For those unaware, ChatGPT was launched as a prototype on November 2022. Within a few days of its release, ChatGPT managed to garner more than one million users within a week.
It became insanely popular because of its immense capabilities, be it content writing through simple prompts, organizing people’s meals, planning a holiday party, or even writing a song, and much more.
The Italian Data Protection Authority (Garante per la protezione dei dati personali) on Friday temporarily banned ChatGPT in the country and also opened an investigation against the AI chatbot and the U.S. company OpenAI, as it failed to comply with Italian data collection rules.
It said it was taking provisional action against OpenAI “until ChatGPT respects privacy”, including temporarily restricting the processing of data of Italian users.
The Garante also referred to a recent data breach on March 20 in which users reported being able to access user conversations and information related to the payment of subscribers to the paid service.
“We noticed a lack of clear notice to users and all interested parties whose data are collected by OpenAI, but above all, the absence of a legal basis that justifies the collection and massive storage of personal data to ‘train’ the algorithms upon which the platform is based,” reads an announcement (in Italian), published on Friday.
“As evidenced by the checks carried out, the information provided by ChatGPT does not always correspond to the real data, thus determining an inaccurate processing of personal data.”
Lastly, the watchdog pointed out that OpenAI did not implement sufficient measures in place to prevent users aged 13 and below from using ChatGPT. In the absence of any filter that verifies the age of the users, the app “exposes minors to absolutely unsuitable answers compared to their degree of development and self-awareness”.
OpenAI had 20 days (i.e. until April 19) to answer to the Data Protection Authority as to how what measures it has undertaken to address the watchdog’s concerns – or incur a fine of up to 20 million euros ($21.7 million), or 4% of the company’s annual global turnover.
Recently, a group of AI experts and industry executives along with Twitter CEO and former OpenAI co-founder Elon Musk wrote an open letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission calling for an immediate six-month pause on the training of more powerful AI bots now in development than OpenAI’s newly launched model GPT-4, as the AI systems pose “profound risks to society and humanity”.
ChatGPT is already blocked in countries like China, North Korea, Russia, and Iran. OpenAI told the BBC that it had disabled ChatGPT for users in Italy.
“We are committed to protecting people’s privacy and we believe we comply with GDPR and other privacy laws. We actively work to reduce personal data in training our A.I. systems like ChatGPT because we want our A.I. to learn about the world, not about private individuals,” OpenAI said.
“We also believe that AI regulation is necessary — so we look forward to working closely with the Garante and educating them on how our systems are built and used.”
OpenAI said it is looking forward to making ChatGPT available in Italy again “soon”.