Italy is temporarily blocking the artificial intelligence software ChatGPT in the wake of a data breach as it investigates a possible violation of stringent European Union data protection rules, the government’s privacy watchdog said Friday.
The Italian Data Protection Authority said it was taking provisional action “until ChatGPT respects privacy,” including temporarily limiting the company from processing Italian users’ data.
US-based OpenAI, which developed the chatbot, said late Friday night it has disabled ChatGPT for Italian users at the government’s request. The company said it believes its practices comply with European privacy laws and hopes to make ChatGPT available again soon.
While some public schools and universities around the world have blocked ChatGPT from their local networks over student plagiarism concerns, Italy’s action is “the first nation-scale restriction of a mainstream AI platform by a democracy,” said Alp Toker, director of the advocacy group NetBlocks, which monitors internet access worldwide.
The restriction affects the web version of ChatGPT, popularly used as a writing assistant, but is unlikely to affect software applications from companies that already have licenses with OpenAI to use the same technology driving the chatbot, such as Microsoft’s Bing search engine.
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 writings they have ingested.