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Canada Probing OpenAI Alleging Violations in Harvesting Personal Information

Canada joins Italy, France, and Germany as among jurisdictions investigating OpenAI alleging violation by the artificial intelligence firm when harvesting personal information. The pronouncement by Philippe Dufresne as head of the privacy commission confirmed initiating the probe.

Canada Probing Alleged Privacy Violations by OpenAI

Canada’s investigations coincided with announcements by several watchdogs from developed peers, including France, Spain, Ireland, and Germany, taking similar action. The Canadian privacy regulator claims OpenAI as the creator of the AI ChatGPT chatbot, failed in its duties to seek consent from individuals when collecting and utilizing personal information. 

The update conveyed Tuesday, April 4, by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) indicated the data watchdog opened investigations following the complaint by a grieved person, though identified as anonymous.


After the explosive complaint, Dufresne directed the AI firm to deploy sufficient safeguards for Canadian privacy rights. The head executive at OPC restated the priorities of the watchdog as monitoring the AI technology to avert the spiral of adverse effects on the privacy of Canadians. 

Canada and Italy Leads European Countries to Ban OpenAI

Dufresne lauded the move by fellow data watchdogs in other jurisdictions by openly declaring enforcement actions against privacy violations perpetrated by the AI firms. As such, the Canadian executive challenged the watchdog’s executives to keep pace or perhaps stay ahead of the technological advances swiftly altering the world order.

The OPC statement was noncommittal on the enforcement actions it would likely apply, including limiting the ChatGPT access to the Canadians. Such differs from the enforcement undertaken by the Italy data regulatory authority when it issued a temporary block to halt ChatGPT activities.

The data protection agency in Italy indicated in its March 31 announcement that it temporarily blocked ChatGPT4 operations until investigations alleging data breach were completed. The Italian regulator confirmed acting upon the March 20 incident where third parties could access another individual’s private and confidential information. 

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OpenAI Breached Privacy Rules on Underage Users

The decision undertaken by the Italian Data Protection Authority (Garante) on Friday, March 31, alleged the Microsoft-backed OpenAI breached privacy rules. In particular, it failed to prohibit underage users, particularly those below 13 years, in the recent ChatGPT usage. 

Garante revealed that ChatGPT lacks a legal basis for the guidelines deployed when collecting and storing massive personal data. OpenAI admitted the temporary prohibition necessitating it to go offline in Italy. The head of the AI firm’s operations in Italy indicated that Garante issued 20 days to remedy the challenge of the risk of incurring a 21.68 million fine that would also be scaled to 4% of its annual global turnover.

OpenAI informs the Italian users that its ChatGPT remains offline following the Garante directive. The ChatGPT echoes the notice indicating the website’s owner imposed restrictions denying access to the site.

OpenAI dismisses the allegations as unfounded, considering that it actively reduces the collection of personal data when training its AI systems since ChatGPT’s design is to learn the world and not invade the privacy of individuals.

The move by Italy’s Garante to probe OpenAI conduct marks the first Western authority to enforce action against the AI-powered Chatbox. The decision drew condemnation from Italy’s prime minister Matteo Salvini terming the move in his April 4 tweet as excessive.

ChatGPT Faces Increased Criticism as Germany Mulls Temporary Ban

Meanwhile, German authorities are mulling replicating Italy’s lead, as indicated on April 3 by Ulrich Kelber – a commissioner serving in the country’s Data Protection and Freedom of Information. 

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Kelber informed Handelsblatt media outlet that the country’s watchdog was mulling temporarily prohibiting ChatGPT. Such would arise when probing whether the AI-powered Chatbot contravenes the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applied in the European Union.

Meanwhile, Ireland and France privacy regulators confirmed contacting Italy’s watchdog in an inquiry-based on imposing the ban. Spain, too, was noncommittal on initiating future probes on ChatGPT, though it ruled out receiving any complaint. 

The Center for Artificial Intelligence and Digital Policy (CAIDP) revealed in its March 30 filing that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) petitioned to halt the release of powerful human-competitive intelligence systems. It alleged that ChatGPT-4 contravenes the Section 5 provisions of the FTC Act. 

CAIDP submitted that the AI was deploying deceptive conduct capable of unfairly influencing commerce. Such assertions arise even when Tesla Inc.’s chief executive Elon Musk and Apple Inc. Steve Wozniak urged AI firms to halt the release of advanced GPT-4 versions.

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Stephen Causby

Stephen Causby is an experienced crypto journalist who writes for Tokenhell. He is passionate for coverage in crypto news, blockchain, DeFi, and NFT.

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