ChatGPT can resume in Italy if meets data watchdog's demands

FILE PHOTO: ChatGPT logo is seen in this illustration taken, February 3, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

MILAN (Reuters) -Italy's data protection agency set out a list of demands on Wednesday which it said OpenAI must meet by April 30 to address the agency's concerns over the ChatGPT chatbot and allow the artificial intelligence service to resume in the country.

Almost two weeks ago Microsoft Corp-backed OpenAI took ChatGPT offline in Italy after the authority, known as Garante, temporarily restricted its personal data processing and began a probe into a suspected breach of privacy rules.

In a statement on Wednesday Garante laid out a set of "concrete" demands to be met by the end of this month

"Only in this case.. the authority will suspend the provisional restrictions on the use of the data of Italian users ... and ChatGPT will once again become accessible in Italy," it said.

OpenAI on Thursday welcomed the agency's move.

"We are happy that the Italian Garante is reconsidering their decision and we look forward to working with them to make ChatGPT available to our customers in Italy again soon," a spokesperson told Reuters.

Italy was the first western European country to curb ChatGPT, but its rapid development has attracted attention from lawmakers and regulators in several countries.

Many experts say new regulations are needed to govern artificial intelligence (AI) because of its potential impact on national security, jobs and education.

The authority said OpenAI is required to inform users in Italy of "the methods and logic" behind the processing of data necessary for ChatGPT to operate.

The watchdog also asked OpenAI to provide tools to enable people whose data is involved, including non-users, to request the correction of personal data inaccurately generated by the service or its deletion, if a correction is not possible.

OpenAI should also allow non-users to oppose "in a simple and accessible manner" the processing of their personal data to run its algorithms, Garante said.

It also asked the company to introduce by the end of September an age verification system capable of excluding access to users under 13.

Garante said it would continue investigating potential breaches of data protection rules by OpenAI, reserving the right to impose any other measures needed at the end of its ongoing probe.

The Italian move on ChatGPT has piqued the interest of other privacy watchdogs in Europe which are studying whether harsher measures are needed for chatbots and whether to coordinate.

Spain's data protection agency has asked the European Union's privacy watchdog to evaluate privacy concerns surrounding ChatGPT.

In February, the Italian regulator banned AI chatbot company Replika from using the personal data of users in Italy, citing risks to minors and emotionally fragile people.

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina; Editing by Gavin Jones and Alexander Smith)

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