ChatGPT Microsoft-backed AI chatbot banned in Italy over privacy concerns

Italy has launched a probe over the artificial intelligence application’s suspected breach of privacy rules.

ChatGPT ban
OpenAI said it has disabled ChatGPT for users in Italy. (Photo credit: Reuters)

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% 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.

Italy, which has provisionally restricted ChatGPT’s use of domestic users’ personal data, became the first Western country to take action against a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence.

The chatbot is also unavailable in mainland China, Hong Kong, Iran and Russia and parts of Africa where residents cannot create OpenAI accounts.

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.

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First published on: 01-04-2023 at 15:20 IST
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