Last week, Google announced that its Bard chatbot was becoming available in 180 countries. However, EU countries are conspicuously absent. Why is Google stopping short of introducing Bard in Europe (for now)?
Those searching for an explanation soon end up at the ban that the Italian privacy watchdog imposed on ChatGPT. OpenAI’s chatbot would illegally process Europeans’ data and not restrict its use by children. Meanwhile, Italians can again use ChatGPT, although the AI world is not yet rid of EU legislation. Indeed, later this year we can expect an “AI law” from the European Commission.
Read also: ‘EU to reach an agreement on AI law this year’
Why Bard is not coming to Europe, Google would not disclose. However, experts tell Wired that the company may be afraid of the consequences of mistakes the chatbot may make. Bard can occasionally “hallucinate” facts, read: present inaccuracies as true. The Wired article talks about potentially spreading misinformation on topics such as the war in Ukraine.
That the EU can issue sky-high fines, including to Google, is well known. The fear of another hefty slap on the wrist will be reason enough for Google to be cautious about introducing sensitive products into the EU.
However, the impending European legislation is a current motivator to send a signal. That signal: allow us to deploy AI without strict privacy laws, or else. Although there are companies banning AI tools, it seems that the deployment of generative AI will become an indispensable aspect of the working lives of many. Google may not be the only or even the biggest player in the field of chatbots, but it has an asset. It seems to want to try to influence the upcoming law by denying EU citizens a useful tool.
Whether the EU does feel like bowing to Big Tech this time remains to be seen. What is clear is that the open-source community also fears an overreaching AI law, with which Google also finds an ally in a worthy competitor.