AI application ChatGPT temporarily banned in Italy over data collection concerns
Company has 20 days to respond with remedies or could risk significant fine
Italy's Data Protection Authority on Friday temporarily banned OpenAI's ChatGPT chatbot and launched a probe over a suspected breach of the artificial intelligence application's data collection rules.
The agency, also known as Garante, accused Microsoft Corp-backed ChatGPT of failing to check the age of its users who are supposed to be 13 and up.
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 four per cent of its annual worldwide turnover.
OpenAI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
ChatGPT was still answering questions posted by Italian users of the platform on Friday evening.
The AI company was informed of the decision Friday morning. It would have been materially impossible to pull the plug on access to ChatGPT in Italy on the same day, but an authority spokesperson said the company was expected to do so by Saturday.
"If they ignore the ban, the authority can impose fines," the spokesperson said.
Italy, which provisionally restricted ChatGPT from using the personal data of domestic users, 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.
Regulating ChatGPT, other AI applications
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.
The European Commission, which is debating the EU AI Act, may not be inclined to ban AI, European Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager tweeted.
"No matter which #tech we use, we have to continue to advance our freedoms & protect our rights. That's why we don't regulate #AI technologies, we regulate the uses of #AI," she said. "Let's not throw away in a few years what has taken decades to build."
The European Commission did not respond to a request for comment.
Musk, others call for AI pause
On Wednesday, Elon Musk and a group of artificial intelligence experts and industry executives wrote an open letter calling for a six-month pause in developing systems more powerful than OpenAI's newly launched GPT-4, citing potential risks to society.
OpenAI has not provided details on how it trains its AI model.
"The lack of transparency is the real problem," said Johanna Björklund, AI researcher and associate professor at Umeå University in Sweden. "If you do AI research, you should be very transparent about how you do it,"
ChatGPT is estimated to have reached 100 million monthly active users in January, just two months after launch, making it the fastest-growing consumer application in history, according to a UBS study published last month.