The Mercury News Weekend

OpenAI offers help for ChatGPT ban

- By Kelvin Chan

The San Francisco-based company behind ChatGPT will propose measures to resolve data privacy concerns that sparked a temporary Italian ban on the artificial intelligen­ce chatbot, regulators said Thursday.

The Italian data protection authority, known as Garante, last week blocked San Francisco-based OpenAI's popular chatbot, ordering it to temporaril­y stop processing Italian users' personal informatio­n while it investigat­es a possible breach of European Union data privacy rules.

Experts said it was the first such case of a democracy imposing a nationwide ban on a mainstream AI platform.

In a video call late Wednesday between the watchdog's commission­ers and OpenAI executives including CEO Sam Altman, the company promised to set out measures to address the concerns. Those remedies have not been detailed.

The Italian watchdog said it didn't want to hamper AI's developmen­t but stressed to OpenAI the importance of complying with the 27-nation EU's stringent privacy rules.

The regulators imposed the ban after some users' messages and payment informatio­n were exposed. They also questioned whether there's a legal basis for OpenAI to collect massive amounts of data used to train ChatGPT's algorithms and raised concerns the system could sometimes generate false informatio­n about individual­s.

So-called generative AI technology like ChatGPT is “trained” on huge pools of data, including digital books and online writings, and able to generate text that mimics human writing styles.

These systems have created buzz in the tech world and beyond, but they also have stirred fears among officials, regulators and even computer scientists and tech industry leaders about possible ethical and societal risks.

Other regulators in Europe and elsewhere have started paying more attention after Italy's action.

Ireland's Data Protection Commission said it's “following up with the Italian regulator to understand the basis for their action and we will coordinate with all EU Data Protection Authoritie­s in relation to this matter.”

France's data privacy regulator, CNIL, said it's investigat­ing after receiving two complaints about ChatGPT. Canada's privacy commission­er also has opened an investigat­ion into OpenAI after receiving a complaint about the suspected “collection, use and disclosure of personal informatio­n without consent.”

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