Canada opens investigation into OpenAI, firm behind ChatGPT over data security

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Canada announced Tuesday it has opened an investigation into the US-based software firm behind ChatGPT, the buzzy artificial intelligence chatbot.

The investigation by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner into OpenAI was opened in response to a “complaint alleging the collection, use and disclosure of personal information without consent,” the agency said.

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Launched in November, OpenAI’s chatbot uses information available online to provide detailed answers to users’ queries.

ChatGPT caused a global sensation when it was released last year for its ability to generate essays, songs, exams and even news articles from brief prompts.

But critics have long fretted that it was unclear where ChatGPT and its competitors got their data or how they processed it.

“We need to keep up with -- and stay ahead of -- fast-moving technological advances, and that is one of my key focus areas,” said Canadian privacy commissioner Philippe Dufresne.

With funding from tech giant Microsoft, which has already added the tool to several of its services, ChatGPT is sometimes touted as a potential competitor to Google’s search engine.

The move by Canada’s regulator comes amid growing calls for stepped up scrutiny of AI-powered technology.

Last week, billionaire Elon Musk -- a founder of OpenAI but no longer a member of the board -- and hundreds of global experts called for a six-month pause in research on AI systems more powerful than GPT-4, the latest iteration of the software on which ChatGPT is based, citing “profound risks to society and humanity.”

Italy on Friday also became the first country in the Western world to block ChatGPT over concerns about data use.

The European police agency Europol recently warned that criminals are poised to take advantage of artificial intelligence like conversational bots to commit fraud and other cybercrimes.

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