ChatGPT: Italy says OpenAI’s chatbot breaches data protection rules

The ChatGPT logo on a phone screenReuters

ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence-powered chatbot, breaches rules on data protection, an Italian watchdog says.

An inquiry by Italy’s Data Protection Authority (DPA) found data privacy violations, although it did not detail what the specific breaches were.

The chatbot, which was launched at the end of 2022, relies on being fed large amounts of data from the internet.

ChatGPT’s maker OpenAI has 30 days to respond with its defence. The BBC has contacted OpenAI for comment.

Italy has taken a firm stance on data protection when it comes to ChatGPT.

It was the first Western country to block the product in March 2023, citing privacy concerns.

ChatGPT was reinstated around four weeks later, after stating it had successfully “addressed or clarified” the issues raised by the DPA.

Italy’s DPA launched a “fact-finding activity” at the time, which it says has now found data privacy violations.

In a statement, the DPA said it “concluded that the available evidence pointed to the existence of breaches of the provisions contained in the EU GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation]”.

Under the EU’s GDPR law, firms which break the rules can be fined up to 4% of the company’s global turnover.

Italy’s DPA works alongside the European Union’s European Data Protection Board – which set up a special task force to monitor ChatGPT in April 2023.

At the time of ChatGPT’s reinstatement in Italy in April 2023, the Italian regulator told the BBC that it “welcomed the measures OpenAI implemented” but called for even more compliance.

In particular, a spokesperson said, it wanted more action around “implementing an age verification system and planning and conducting an information campaign to inform Italians of what happened as well as of their right to opt-out from the processing of their personal data for training algorithms”.

An OpenAI spokesperson said at the time that it would continue talks with the regulator.

OpenAI has close links with tech giant Microsoft, which has invested billions of dollars into the company.

Microsoft has integrated AI into its Bing search engine, as well as its Office 365 apps such as Word, Teams and Outlook.

Additional reporting by Thomas Fabbri.


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