The focus of probe into OpenAI is on the potential harm to consumers and data security concerns.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is opening an investigation into the artificial intelligence firm OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT.
The focus of the probe is on whether or not the chatbot has harmed consumers through its collection of data, its publication of false information about individuals, and its questionable data insecurity.
In a 20-page letter sent to the San Francisco company this week, the agency said it was also looking into OpenAI’s security practices. The F.T.C. asked OpenAI dozens of questions in its letter, including how the start-up trains its A.I. models and treats personal data, and said the company should provide the agency with documents and details.
The F.T.C. is examining whether OpenAI “engaged in unfair or deceptive privacy or data security practices or engaged in unfair or deceptive practices relating to risks of harm to consumers,” the letter said.
This investigation represents the first serious U.S. regulatory threat to OpenAI.
One question asks the company to “describe in detail the extent to which you have taken steps to address or mitigate risks that your large language model products could generate statements about real individuals that are false, misleading or disparaging.
The new FTC investigation under Chair Lina Khan marks a significant escalation of the federal government’s role in policing the emerging technology.
Khan, who appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, said the agency is concerned that ChatGPT and other AI-driven apps have no checks on the data they can mine.
“We’ve heard about reports where people’s sensitive information is showing up in response to an inquiry from somebody else,” Khan said. “We’ve heard about libel, defamatory statements, flatly untrue things that are emerging. That’s the type of fraud and deception that we are concerned about.”
The inquiries are not unreasonable. OpenAI was initially presented as a non-profit organization supportive of the fair use of data for research and development.
The worry is that it may have morphed into a commercial enterprise without providing just compensation for the materials it offers.
Recently, comedian Sarah Silverman and two bestselling novelists have sued both Meta and OpenAI, asserting that both firms used the authors’ copyrighted books without permission to “train” their artificial intelligence software programs.
The proposed class-action lawsuit was filed in a San Francisco federal court on Friday by authors Richard Kadrey, known for his supernatural horror series “Sandman Slim,” and Christopher Golden, along with Silverman, who, aside from acting, published the bestselling memoir “The Bedwetter” in 2010. Each suit seeks just under $1 billion in damages, according to court filings. The authors alleged the two tech companies had “ingested” text from their books into generative AI software, known as large language models, and failed to give them credit or compensation.
The suit arrives several weeks after bestselling authors Mona Awad and Paul Tremblay also sued OpenAI for copyright infringement on similar grounds. The complaints have been filed by attorneys Joseph Saveri and Matthew Butterick, who also are behind lawsuits against controversial AI art tool Stable Diffusion on behalf of several visual artists and a proposed class action against Microsoft’s GitHub Copilot.
Representatives for Meta and OpenAI did not immediately respond to The Times’ requests for comment on Monday.
Data security is another significant issue that the FTC will be reviewing in this investigation.
The FTC also asked the company to provide records related to a security incident that the company disclosed in March when a bug in its systems allowed some users to see payment-related information, as well as some data from other users’ chat history. The FTC is probing whether the company’s data security practices violate consumer protection laws. OpenAI said in a blog post that the number of users whose data was revealed to someone else was “extremely low.”
The FTC declined to comment. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said in a tweet Thursday evening that the company will “of course” work with the agency.
“it is very disappointing to see the FTC’s request start with a leak and does not help build trust,” he tweeted. “that said, it’s super important to us that out technology is safe and pro-consumer, and we are confident we follow the law.”
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