West News Wire: The artificial intelligence (AI) program ChatGPT has been briefly blocked by the Italian government’s privacy watchdog due to worries about data privacy. 

Italy became the first Western nation to take such action against the well-known AI chatbot after its statement on Friday. 

As long as ChatGPT respects privacy, the Italian Data Protection Authority’s move is only temporary. Its remedy entails temporarily prohibiting the business from retaining the information of Italian users. 

The monitoring group claimed that OpenAI, the company that created ChatGPT, lacked a legal justification for “the mass collection and storage of personal data for the purpose of ‘training’ the algorithms underlying the operation of the platform.” 

It also made mention of a data breach that occurred on March 20 and was attributed by the American company to a bug. User chats and payment information were exposed. 

Since ChatGPT was launched, it has seen meteoric growth. Millions of people are using the software for activities ranging from developing architectural designs to writing essays and drafting messages, songs, novels and jokes. 

It has also sparked an AI race among other tech firms and venture capitalists. Google is rushing out its own chatbot, called Bard, and investors are pouring cash into all manner of AI projects. 

But critics have long fretted over where ChatGPT and its competitors get their data or how they process it. 

“We actually don’t know how the data is used because there’s not enough information given to the public,” Ruta Liepina, an AI fellow at the University of Bologna in Italy told news reporters.

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“At the same time at the European Union, there are a lot of new regulations being proposed, but it will be a matter of how they are enforced and how much the companies collaborate in showing information that is needed to better understand how these technologies are working,” Liepina said. 

The AI systems that power such chatbots, known as large language models, are able to mimic human writing styles based on the huge trove of digital books and online writing they have ingested. 

Some public schools and universities around the world have blocked the ChatGPT website from their local networks over student plagiarism concerns, but it was not clear how Italy would block it at a nationwide level. 

The move is unlikely to affect applications from companies that already have licences with OpenAI to use the same technology driving the chatbot, such as Microsoft’s Bing search engine. 


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