Person holding phone with ChatGPT app open against EU flag

EU data regulator sets up ChatGPT task force

Image credit: Canva

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) will launch a dedicated task force to discuss possible regulatory frameworks for artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots such as ChatGPT.

The European Union has taken the first significant step towards regulating generative AI tools, as it announces the creation of a bespoke ChatGPT task force.

"The EDPB members discussed the recent enforcement action undertaken by the Italian data protection authority against OpenAI about the Chat GPT service," the statement said.

"The EDPB decided to launch a dedicated task force to foster cooperation and to exchange information on possible enforcement actions conducted by data protection authorities."

Over the last few months, AI-powered chatbots such as OpenAI's ChatGPT have seen a dramatic rise in popularity. These free tools can generate text in response to a prompt, including articles, essays, jokes and even poetry. However, governments and experts have raised concerns about the risks these tools could pose to people’s privacy, human rights or safety. 

The road taken by the EU on this issue marks a sharp contrast with the move by Italian regulators, which issued a temporary ban on OpenAI's chatbot, stating potential breaches of the EU’s data protection regulation.

The Italian authority said the ban could be lifted if ChatGPT agreed to a series of measures, including making its privacy notice available, providing a legal basis upon which the company is allowed to process personal data for training its algorithms and allowing users who want to correct inaccurate information or remove their personal data from the chatbot to do so. 

Garante - Italy's privacy watchdog - gave OpenAI until the end of the month to provide this, alongside a plan to implement age verification of its users to prevent access to children below the age of 13 years old and minors. The company will also have to conduct an information campaign via radio, television, newspapers and the web to inform people how they use their personal data to train their AI tools.

Other EU nations are also responding to ChatGPT's dramatic rise in popularity, with both France and Spain's watchdogs opening enquiries into the software and Germany's commissioner stating it was considering a temporary ban. 

Spain's AEPD data protection agency stressed that, while it favoured AI development, "it must be compatible with personal rights and freedoms".

The French investigation was prompted by five data privacy complaints related to ChatGPT. One of these was brought forward by a French MP, Eric Bothorel, who stated that ChatGPT had invented details of his life, including his birth date and job history.

Meanwhile, China’s cyber-space regulator has recently unveiled draft measures that would make companies responsible for the data used to train generative AI models, such as Midjourney and ChatGPT. The UK, in turn, has begun designing 'light touch' regulatory frameworks regarding the safe use of AI

Concerns about the chatbot's dangers have also been voiced by industry experts. Last month, notable technology figures including Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak signed an open letter warning that AI labs were locked in an “out-of-control race” and calling for a six-month pause on all large-scale AI experiments. 

At the same time, the European Commission is debating the EU AI Act, which aims to provide a framework that would guide the responsible use of these technologies. 

OpenAI’s chatbot is also currently unavailable in Hong Kong, Iran and Russia and parts of Africa. 

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