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OpenAI faces Canadian privacy probe alleging personal info harvesting

OpenAI, the creators of artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot ChatGPT, is under investigation by Canada’s privacy commissioner for alleged collection and use of personal information without consent.

On April 4, The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) stated its investigation was brought about following a complaint from an unidentified person.

Head Privacy Commissioner Philippe Dufresne said his office is paying close attention to AI tech to ensure Canadian privacy rights are sufficiently protected:

“AI technology and its effects on privacy is a priority for my Office […] We need to keep up with – and stay ahead of – fast-moving technological advances, and that is one of my key focus areas.”

No further comments were provided by the OPC and the Office made no mention of a limit on Canadians’ access to ChatGPT.

Canada’s investigation comes as Germany, France, Ireland and Spain eye possible action on AI following a temporary block on ChatGPT in Italy.

On March 31, Italy’s data protection watchdog temporarily blocked the chatbot while it investigates an alleged data breach on the platform that took place on March 20.

The decision, however, raised the eyebrows of Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, who described the ban as “excessive” in an April 4 tweet.

Germany is considering following Italy’s lead too.

On April 3 Ulrich Kelber, federal commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information told local outlet Handelsblatt that Germany may temporarily ban ChatGPT in the event that his commission probes whether the chatbot violates the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Privacy regulators in France and Ireland are also keeping an eye on Italy’s investigation and have contacted Italy’s watchdog to inquire about the basis of its ban according to an April 4 Reuters report.

Spain told Reuters it won’t rule out a future investigation on ChatGPT, but said it hadn’t received a complaint about the chatbot.

Related: OpenAI needs a DAO to manage ChatGPT

While the OPC’s investigation is most concerned with privacy, other entities have expressed issues of their own.

The Center for Artificial Intelligence and Digital Policy (CAIDP) filed a March 30 complaint with the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in an attempt to halt the release of powerful AI systems to consumers.

CAIDP claims ChatGPT-4 violates Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniack were among the 12,800 signees of a March 22 petition which called for AI firms to “pause” progress on AI systems more powerful than GPT-4 because it may pose “profound risks to society and humanity.”

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