OpenAI, the company behind the popular conversational AI tool ChatGPT, is currently under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The investigation aims to determine if ChatGPT has violated data privacy laws and disseminated false information about individuals. While ChatGPT has gained significant attention for its capabilities, it has also faced controversies along the way.
The FTC has issued a “Civil Investigation Demand,” a 20-page document, requesting OpenAI to provide records showcasing how the company addresses risks associated with its AI models.
This investigation represents OpenAI’s most significant encounter with a regulatory agency in the United States. The document specifically asks OpenAI to clarify the methods used to acquire the data used for training the powerful Large Language Models that fuel ChatGPT, including options such as data scraping and third-party purchases.
Data scraping involves automated programs searching public websites for data, which can be utilized for various purposes like training AI models or targeted advertising.
While data scraping is generally permitted in the U.S., recent events, such as Twitter filing a lawsuit against unnamed entities for extensive data scraping, have brought attention to the practice.
OpenAI’s CEO, Sam Altman, has stated on Twitter that the company will cooperate with the FTC to demonstrate that the technology behind ChatGPT and other products is both safe and beneficial to consumers.
The FTC’s document also seeks explanations from OpenAI regarding the measures taken to assess the potential for ChatGPT to make inaccurate and misleading statements about individuals.
This aspect of the investigation aims to determine whether the chatbot could have been trained to harm people’s reputations.
Additionally, the FTC requests insights into OpenAI’s product offerings, marketing strategies, and the preparation process for new product launches.
OpenAI Fate if Found Guilty
If found guilty of the allegations, OpenAI could face a fine or be required to enter into an agreement known as a consent decree, which would stipulate how the company handles data.
Notably, other tech giants like Amazon, Meta, and Twitter have also been fined for similar offenses, with Amazon recently being fined $25 million for non-compliance with child data privacy laws.
Apart from concerns about data privacy and potential errors in ChatGPT, the FTC has also urged OpenAI to provide records related to a bug incident that occurred in March.
During the incident, active users’ chat history and payment records were momentarily exposed. OpenAI clarified that certain user information, such as names, email addresses, payment addresses, credit card types, and the last four digits of credit card numbers, were visible, but full credit card numbers were not exposed.
The FTC seeks specific details regarding the number of affected users, complaints received, any policy modifications made since the incident, and more.
Why AI Should Be Regulated
The need for comprehensive AI regulation is becoming increasingly apparent. Recently, a businessman in Tanzania filed a lawsuit against his telecom operator, Vodacom, after discovering a substantial amount of his data on ChatGPT without his consent.
This case, along with others, underscores the potential risks posed by unregulated AI models. While ChatGPT can be beneficial for tasks like assisting students with homework or employees with work-related tasks, questions arise about how the bot handles user data and the security of personal information.
Some companies, such as Samsung, have prohibited their staff from using ChatGPT and other bots following security incidents where sensitive code was uploaded to the platform. This trend has been observed in other companies as well.
Considering that ChatGPT gathers information from various sources, including public websites and conversations with users, the exposure of sensitive company information on a public platform can have severe consequences.
Governments worldwide must prioritize AI regulation to ensure proper data handling by companies. The European Union recently passed a significant AI regulation bill that emphasizes data privacy and imposes substantial fines for non-compliance. The United States and other countries should follow suit to maintain control as AI continues to advance.
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