Italy suspends ChatGPT robot for non-respect of personal data

The logos of the ChatGPT robot and OpenAI, the company behind its creation. © AFP / LIONEL BONAVENTURE

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The Italian Data Protection Authority criticises ChatGPT chatbot for "the lack of a legal basis justifying the mass collection and storage of personal data".


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This is a first in Europe. Italy became the first country in the Western world to block the ChatGPT chatbot over data usage fears on Friday, March 31. In a statement, the Italian Authority for the Protection of Personal Data said that its decision had an "immediate effect" and will result in "the temporary limitation of the processing of Italian users' data vis-à-vis OpenAI", the company behind the application.

The Italian institution accuses it of "the absence of an information note to users, whose data is collected by OpenAI, but above all the absence of a legal basis justifying the mass collection and storage of personal data, in order to 'train' the algorithms that operate the platform". It also points out that ChatGPT "suffered on March 20 a loss of data concerning users' conversations and payment information of paid service subscribers". OpenAI had briefly interrupted the service after initial reports and acknowledged a bug in a third-party tool that had affected 1.2% of its subscribers and an indefinite number of free users.

Appearing in November 2022, ChatGPT quickly gained popularity thanks to its ability to answer difficult questions clearly, mimic human writing, or produce computer code. Funded by the computer giant Microsoft, it is sometimes presented as a potential competitor to the Google search engine.

Threat of sanctions

The Italian authority is not at its first attempt, since it had already blocked for similar reasons, in early February, the application Replika which offers to chat with a virtual friend. Some users had complained of receiving messages and images that were too daring, bordering on sexual harassment.

The Italian Data Protection Authority has asked OpenAI to "communicate within 20 days the measures taken" to remedy this situation, "under penalty of a penalty of up to 20million euros or up to 4% of annual worldwide turnover", the maximum provided for by the European Regulation on Personal Data (GDPR), which has already resulted in billions of dollars in fines for tech giants.

Billionaire Elon Musk, owner of Twitter and one of the founders of OpenAI, as well as hundreds of global experts called for a six-month break on Wednesday, March 29, in research on AI more powerful than GPT-4, the latest version of the software on which ChatGPT is based launched in mid-March, citing "major risks for humanity".

This suspension of ChatGPT also demonstrates that artificial intelligence feeds fears that go beyond the mere exploitation of personal data. The European Union is already preparing a draft regulation that could be finalized by early 2024, for application in the coming years.

(With AFP)

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  • Italy
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