Due to privacy concerns, Italy has banned the use of ChatGPT

Due to privacy concerns, Italy has banned the use of ChatGPT

In November 2022, the advanced chatbot ChatGPT, created by US start-up OpenAI and backed by Microsoft, was launched and since then, millions of people have used it.

However, due to privacy concerns, Italy has become the first Western country to block its usage.

The Italian data-protection authority has cited concerns regarding the model's privacy and has stated that it will ban and investigate OpenAI with immediate effect.

OpenAI has told the BBC that it is in compliance with privacy laws.

Capable of answering questions in natural, human-like language and mimicking various writing styles, ChatGPT utilizes the internet as its database, which reflects its state as of 2021.

Microsoft has invested billions of dollars in the development of ChatGPT, and it was integrated into Bing in the previous month.

Furthermore, the technology will be incorporated into Microsoft Office apps, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

The risks associated with artificial intelligence (AI), such as the loss of jobs and the propagation of misinformation and bias, have been a cause for concern.

Recently, prominent figures in the tech industry, including Elon Musk, urged for the suspension of such AI systems, citing concerns that the quest to develop them had gone too far.

In light of these concerns, the Italian watchdog has announced that it will not only ban OpenAI's chatbot, but also conduct an investigation to determine whether it complies with the General Data Protection Regulation.

The usage, processing, and storage of personal data is regulated by GDPR. On March 20th, the watchdog reported a data breach involving user conversations and payment information in the app.

It also stated that there was no legal justification for the mass collection and storage of personal data solely for the purpose of training the platform's underlying algorithms.

The watchdog further noted that as there was no mechanism to authenticate the age of users, the app posed a risk of exposing minors to inappropriate content that did not align with their level of development and awareness.

As a result of similar concerns, Bard, Google's AI chatbot, is now only accessible to users over the age of 18. The Italian data-protection authority has given OpenAI a 20-day deadline to respond to its concerns, failing which the company may be liable for a fine of €20 million ($21.7m) or up to 4% of its annual revenues.

The Irish data protection commission has informed the BBC that it is investigating the rationale behind the Italian regulator's decision and will work alongside other EU data protection authorities regarding the ban.

The UK's independent data regulator, the Information Commissioner's Office, told the BBC that it would support the development of AI while also taking measures to enforce compliance with data protection laws.

According to Dan Morgan, from cybersecurity ratings provider SecurityScorecard, the ban emphasizes the significance of regulatory compliance for companies operating in Europe. He added that it is imperative for businesses to prioritize the protection of personal data and adhere to the stringent data protection regulations mandated by the EU, as compliance is not an optional extra.

Consumer advocacy group BEUC has called on EU and national authorities, including data-protection watchdogs, to investigate ChatGPT and other similar chatbots, following a complaint filed in the US.

Although the EU is currently developing the world's first AI legislation, BEUC is concerned that it could take several years before the AI Act is enforced, thereby exposing consumers to the risks of a technology that is inadequately regulated.

Ursula Pachl, Deputy Director General of BEUC, cautioned that society is "not sufficiently protected" from the potential harms of AI. She added that there are growing apprehensions regarding how ChatGPT and similar chatbots could deceive and manipulate people, and that these AI systems require greater public scrutiny, with public authorities asserting greater control over them.

ChatGPT is currently banned in multiple countries, such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. Recently, the Italian data protection regulator, known as the Garante, requested OpenAI to disable ChatGPT for users in Italy due to privacy concerns.

OpenAI responded by stating their commitment to protecting people's privacy and complying with GDPR and other privacy laws. The organization explained that it reduces personal data when training AI systems such as ChatGPT to ensure it learns about the world and not private individuals.

OpenAI also believes that AI regulation is essential and expressed interest in working with Garante to educate them on how their systems are built and used.

Although ChatGPT is currently unavailable in Italy, OpenAI hopes to make it accessible in Italy again soon.