Italian privacy regulators block access to ChatGPT

Italian privacy regulators block access to ChatGPT

Italy’s data protection authority alleges that OpenAI is in violation of the EU’s privacy regulations.

This week the data protection authority for Italy (Garante per la Protezione dei Dati Personali) ordered OpenAI to suspend the operations of its artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT for all Italian users until such time as the service comes into compliance with Europe’s GDPR privacy law.

In a press release, the Garante said it “has ordered, with immediate effect, the temporary limitation of the processing of data of Italian users against OpenAI, the US company that developed and manages the platform”.

At the same time, the Authority said it has opened an investigation into the matter.

As grounds for the block, the Italian regulator pointed out that ChatGPT on March 20 suffered a data loss (data breach) regarding user conversations and information relating to the payment of subscribers to the paid service. The agency also said that OpenAI had no way of preventing “minors” under the age of 13 from accessing the service.

A hefty fine for failure to comply

OpenAI now has 20 days to respond to the satisfaction of the Garante, or else face a fine of a fine of up to 20 million euros or up to 4% of the company’s global annual turnover.

ChatGPT is the best known of the relational artificial intelligence software capable of simulating and processing human conversations. It is also the most widely used, with over 100 million users in January, according to Reuters. Microsoft, which invested billions into OpenAI, has also integrated the chatbot technology into its Bing search engine and Edge browser, as well as its Office suite of productivity software apps.

Starting on March 31, however, any Italians attempting to access the ChatGPT site were greeted with a contrite apology from OpenAI. “We will engage with the Garante with the goal of restoring your access as soon as possible”, the message states. The company also said it is “issuing refunds to all users in Italy who purchased a ChatGPT Plus subscription in March”, as well as “temporarily pausing subscription renewals in Italy”.

It should be noted that, while access to the OpenAI ChatGPT site is blocked, the OpenAI-powered chatbot used in Microsoft’s Bing search and Edge browser is NOT blocked, and is functioning normally in Italy at the time of this writing.