ChatGPT-4 web page, Open AI
Detail of the web page for GPT-4, the latest iteration of Open AI's chatbot. Image: The Record

ChatGPT privacy and safety concerns lead to temporary ban in Italy

Italy’s data protection agency has temporarily banned ChatGPT, alleging the powerful artificial intelligence tool has been illegally collecting users’ data and failing to protect minors.

In a provision released Thursday, the agency wrote that OpenAI, the company that owns the chatbot, does not alert users that it is collecting their data.

They also contend that the application lacks age verification, which “exposes children to receiving responses that are absolutely inappropriate to their age and awareness, even though the service is allegedly addressed to users aged above 13.”

Failures to notify users of data collection, as well as to justify the hoovering of information, would run afoul of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, raising the possibility that other countries in the bloc may follow suit in cracking down on the program.

OpenAI has 20 days to address the allegations, and either remedy or justify them. Otherwise, it could face a fine of up to 20 million euros ($21.7 million).

The agency’s press statement also invoked a data breach on March 20 in which the payment information of ChatGPT subscribers was leaked, as well as some chat records.

OpenAI did not respond to The Record’s request for comment.

The announcement from the Italian government follows the release of a letter endorsed by more than 1,000 technology leaders calling for a temporary moratorium on development of artificial intelligence beyond GPT-4, the most recent iteration of OpenAI’s chatbot.

Published by the nonprofit Future of Life Institute, the letter cites an “out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one — not even their creators — can understand, predict, or reliably control,” and says in the absence of a voluntary pause government regulators should step in.

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James Reddick

James Reddick

has worked as a journalist around the world, including in Lebanon and in Cambodia, where he was Deputy Managing Editor of The Phnom Penh Post. He is also a radio and podcast producer for outlets like Snap Judgment.