Italy Bans ChatGPT Over Country’s Data Protection Concerns; Other European Countries Might Ban It Too

Written by Muhammad Muneeb Ur Rehman ·  2 min read >

After banning the global most trending technology, ChatGPT, Italy has become the first country in the West to ban the popular artificial intelligence chatbot from U.S. startup OpenAI. Last week, the Italian Data Protection Watchdog ordered OpenAI to temporarily cease processing Italian users’ data amid a probe into a suspected breach of Europe’s strict privacy regulations.

The watchdog, Garante, announced a data breach at OpenAI that allowed users to view the titles of conversations other users were having with the chatbot.

Though OpenAI plans to present measures to Italian authorities on Thursday to remedy concerns that led to a ban of its ChatGPT chatbot in Italy last week, the country’s data protection authorities said.

Contrarily, the agency said it has no intention of putting a brake on the development of AI but reiterated the importance of respecting rules aimed at protecting the personal data of Italian and European citizens.

In a video conference late on Wednesday, OpenAI pledged to be more transparent about the way it handles user data and verifies the ages of users, the authority said.

“There appears to be no legal basis underpinning the massive collection and processing of personal data in order to ‘train’ the algorithms on which the platform relies,” Garante said in a statement Friday.

Garante has also shown concerns over a lack of age restrictions on ChatGPT, and how the chatbot can serve factually incorrect information in its responses.

OpenAI risks facing a fine of 20 million euros ($21.8 million), or 4% of its global annual revenue, if it doesn’t come up with remedies to the situation in 20 days.

“Consumers are not ready for this technology. They don’t realize how manipulative, how deceptive it can be,” said Ursula Pachl, Deputy Director of the BEUC.

“They don’t realize that the information they get is maybe wrong. I think this incident with ChatGPT is very important. It’s kind of a wake-up call for the European Union because even though European institutions have been working on an AI Act, it will not be applicable for another four years. And we have seen how fast these sorts of systems are developing,”

Italy isn’t the only country reckoning with the rapid pace of AI progression and its implications for society. Other governments are coming up with their own rules for AI, which, whether or not they mention generative AI, will undoubtedly touch on it. Generative AI refers to a set of AI technologies that generate new content based on prompts from users. It is more advanced than previous iterations of AI, thanks in no small part to new large language models, which are trained on vast quantities of data.

There have long been calls for AI to face regulation. But the pace at which technology has progressed is such that it is proving difficult for governments to keep up. Computers can now create realistic art, write entire essays, or even generate lines of code, in a matter of seconds.  Sophie Hackford told CNBC:

“We have got to be very careful that we don’t create a world where humans are somehow subservient to a greater machine future. Technology is here to serve us. it’s there to make our cancer diagnosis quicker or make humans not have to do jobs that we don’t want to do.”

“We need to be thinking about it very carefully now, and we need to be acting on that now, from a regulation perspective,” she added.

Various regulators are concerned by the challenges AI poses for job security, data privacy, and equality. There are also worries about advanced AI manipulating political discourse through the generation of false information.

Many governments are also starting to think about how to deal with general-purpose systems such as ChatGPT, with some even considering joining Italy in banning the technology.

After Italy’s decision to restrict access to the chatbot, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) is calling on all authorities to investigate all major AI chatbots.

ChatGPT, for instance, is already inaccessible in a number of countries, including China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

The European Commission is currently debating the world’s first legislation on artificial intelligence called the AI Act. 

But it looks like it may not be inclined to ban AI systems, according to the European Commission Executive Vice President, Margrethe Vestager.

“No matter which tech we use, we have to continue to advance our freedoms and protect our rights,” she posted on Twitter. “That’s why we don’t regulate AI technologies, we regulate the uses of AI. Let’s not throw away in a few years what has taken decades to build”.

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Written by Muhammad Muneeb Ur Rehman
Muneeb is a full-time News/Tech writer at He is a passionate follower of the IT progression of Pakistan and the world and wants to educate the people of Pakistan about tech affairs. His favorite part about being a tech writer is tech reviews and giving an honest and clear verdict to his readers. Contact Muneeb on his LinkedIn at: Profile