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ChatGPT is temporarily banned in Italy amid an investigation into data collection

A computer screen shows the OpenAI website Friday in Manta, Italy.
Marco Bertorello
/
AFP via Getty Images
A computer screen shows the OpenAI website Friday in Manta, Italy.

ChatGPT has been temporarily blocked in Italy amid concerns that the artificial intelligence tool violated the country's policies on data collection.

The AI technology, widely known for its chatbot feature, has become a global phenomenon for its wide range of capabilities, from crafting realistic art to passing academic tests to figuring out someone's taxes.

On Friday, the Italian data protection agency announced that it would immediately block the chatbot from collecting Italian users' data while authorities investigate OpenAI, the California company behind ChatGPT.

The investigation comes after the chatbot experienced a data breach on March 20, which jeopardized some users' personal data, such as their chat history and payment information. According to OpenAI, the bug that caused the leak has been patched.

But the data breach was not the only cause for concern in the eyes of the Italian government. The agency questioned OpenAI's data collection practices and whether the breadth of data being retained is legal. The agency also took issue with the lack of an age verification system to prevent minors from being exposed to inappropriate answers.

OpenAI has been given 20 days to respond to the agency's concerns, or the company could face a fine of either $21 million or 4% of its annual revenue.

Italy is considered the first government to temporarily ban ChatGPT in response to data and privacy concerns. But similar fears have been mounting across the world, including the U.S.

Earlier this week, the Center for AI and Digital Policy filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over ChatGPT's latest version, describing it as having the ability to "undertake mass surveillance at scale."

The group asked the FTC to halt OpenAI from releasing future versions until appropriate regulations are established.

"We recognize a wide range of opportunities and benefits that AI may provide," the group wrote in a statement. "But unless we are able to maintain control of these systems, we will be unable to manage the risk that will result or the catastrophic outcomes that may emerge."

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Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.
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