School districts, businesses, and now countries: The push to ban ChatGPT

You’ve probably heard of ChatGPT bans in school districts, companies, and even academic conferences. Now, the tool’s being targeted by a somewhat more substantial entity: the Italian Data Protection Authority. 

On Friday, Italy’s Data Protection Authority placed a temporary ban on OpenAI’s popular chatbot, citing a range of concerns over privacy, age verification, and the tool’s potential to spread unverified or false information. 

“The Italian SA imposed an immediate temporary limitation on the processing of Italian users’ data by OpenAI, the US-based company developing and managing the platform,” reads a statement from the Data Protection Authority.

The regulatory body was particularly concerned with a recent privacy breach that took place March 20. On that day, OpenAI took ChatGPT down after discovering a bug that allowed some users to view the titles in the chat history of other users, as well as some payment information from some of the tool’s paying users.

“Everyone at OpenAI is committed to protecting our users’ privacy and keeping their data safe. It’s a responsibility we take incredibly seriously,” the company wrote in a statement following the breach. “Unfortunately, this week we fell short of that commitment, and of our users’ expectations. We apologize again to our users and to the entire ChatGPT community and will work diligently to rebuild trust.”

That apology wasn’t enough for the Data Protection Authority, though — the agency requested that OpenAI block Italian users from accessing ChatGPT until the lab could address its concerns. OpenAI also has 20 days to provide the Data Protection Authority with information on the company’s plans to resolve the agency’s concerns regarding data privacy.

Italy isn’t the only country where ChatGPT isn’t available (the research lab behind the tool opted to make it unavailable to users in China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia), but the New York Times reports that it is the first known instance of a government banning the tool. 

And other countries could follow suit. Germany’s data protection chief recently floated the idea in the media and advocates in the United States have also called on the federal government to prevent OpenAI from launching further iterations of ChatGPT to the public.

Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.


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