Data Protection Concerns Lead To ChatGPT’s Ban In Italy

In what would be the first for a Western country, Italy has temporarily banned the artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT.

On Friday, Italy’s Guarantor for the Protection of Personal Data ordered OpenAI, the tech company that owns the ChatGPT software application, to stop processing Italian user data for the service until it complies with data privacy regulations.

In compliance with the Italian government’s order, OpenAI has started geoblocking Italian users’ access to ChatGPT. Users with an IP address from Italy who attempt to access the software are greeted with a statement that informs them that all users in Italy have been stripped of access.

The ban, according to the Privacy Guarantor, is a result of OpenAI’s non-compliance with data privacy regulations and the lack of transparency involved in the software’s data collection.

OpenAI uses online data to develop its algorithms and train the technology, including information from internet forums. However, it has not been completely open about the training data it processes. The company also does not inform the people whose online data are used, even though they may have been public.

Now, the Italian privacy protection authority claims that OpenAI’s use of online data for the purpose of machine learning breaches the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation which requires that the company should have been upfront with ChatGPT users and the people whose online data it gathered for machine learning.

Another problem the regulator has with ChatGPT lies in its lack of age verification filters. While the company claims the program is to be used by those over the age of 13, younger children can also freely access the service. This, the regulator believes, speaks lowly of the program’s “degree of development and self-awareness.”

The privacy protection body now requires OpenAI to work on complying with the regulations, with 20 days given to communicate the “measures undertaken.” Failure to meet up with the demand will be met with a fine of €20 million or 4% of the company’s global turnover.

In the meantime, OpenAI has promised to issue refunds to all users in Italy who subscribed to ChatGPT last month and pause subscription renewals while the program is suspended.

Italy’s ban on ChatGPT offers a sneak peek into the policy challenges developers of cutting-edge AI will face.

While the program’s assistance and human-like conversations are a welcome invention for some, there are concerns that it could be used to spread misinformation and violate individual privacy rights. Its potential effect on employment has also sparked controversy as some fear it will take over a lot of job roles.

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