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ChatGPT blocked in Italy over GDPR concerns

  • OpenAI has geoblocked ChatGPT for users in Italy after the country’s data protection authority ordered it to stop processing the data of its citizens.
  • Italian officials cited GDPR as the reason and are looking to launch an investigation into the platform.
  • For now, a VPN serves as a workaround for those wanting to access ChatGPT in Italy.

Last week the data protection authority in Italy set out an order for OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, to stop processing the data of its citizens.

Shortly thereafter, on 1st April in fact, OpenAI began geoblocking access to ChatGPT for users in Italy.

Those in Italy trying to access the platform are greeted with a notification, according to TechCrunch, which says that it regrets to inform users that it has disabled access to users in Italy, at the request of the data protection authority.

On top of this, refunds are being issued to all users in Italy who purchased access to ChatGPT Plus last month, which points to the fact that this is not a short-term suspension, but rather a decision with farther reaching implications.

Explaining its position, Italian authorities have cited GDPR, and are looking to launch a formal investigation into the platform. It also cited a data breach involving ChatGPT last month in which some customer baking data was leaked, pointing to growing concerns that the platform poses a potential security risk for European citizens.

“A data breach affecting ChatGPT users’ conversations and information on payments by subscribers to the service had been reported on 20 March. ChatGPT is the best known among relational AI platforms that are capable to emulate and elaborate human conversations,” the authority’s statement on the matter explained.

“In its order, the Italian SA highlights that no information is provided to users and data subjects whose data are collected by Open AI; more importantly, 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. As confirmed by the tests carried out so far, the information made available by ChatGPT does not always match factual circumstances, so that inaccurate personal data are processed,” it added.

It remains to be seen whether other European nations will be taking a similar stance to Italy, but given the fact that OpenAI is for all intents and purposes an American company, along with so many industries looking to invest in AI technologies at the moment, popularity of ChatGPT and the like may win out.

It is also worth noting that ChatGPT is not entirely inaccessible to those in Italy, with a VPN a fairly easy workaround at this stage. Either way, it looks like the country wants to fully understand how data is handled by the platform and its parent company.

[Image – Photo by Michele Bitetto on Unsplash]

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