The FTC Is Investigating ChatGPT for Scooping up Personal Data

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

You have been duly warned by now about the dangers of AI taking over your job. In fact, that is one of the reasons why the writers and actors who bring us the products that currently pass for entertainment have gone on strike. While I am sure that some sector of the nation is mourning that tragic development, let us turn our attention to actual issues.

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Aside from replacing you in the workplace, could an AI bot gather enough of your personal information to replace you? Or turn on you? Or at least make your life more complicated than it should be? Inquiring minds want to know how OpenAI’s ChatGPT is trolling the web for people’s personal information and what OpenAI is going to do with it. In particular, the Federal Trade Commission is looking into the matter.

The Washington Post reported that earlier in the week, the FTC hit OpenAI with a 20-page demand for information. The commission wants to know where the company has collected the data used to train the bot for ChatGPT. It also wants the lowdown on how Open AI filters personal information and keeps it from being used in that training. The Post said that the FTC has issued warnings to Open AI that it is subject to consumer protection laws and also noted that Chuck Schumer has said that AI legislation is in the pipeline.

Other concerns held by the FTC include complaints that OpenAI’s products had made “false, misleading, disparaging or harmful” statements about people and whether the company had engaged in business practices that create repetitional harm to consumers. Also on the commission’s radar is an incident in March in which users were able to see other people’s chat history and payment information. The paper said that OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman tweeted:

[I]t is very disappointing to see the FTC’s request start with a leak and does not help build trust. [T]hat said, it’s super important to us that [our] technology is safe and pro-consumer, and we are confident we follow the law.

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Normally, the government turning a baleful eye on private industry makes me very wary. We should always be concerned when that happens, and to be honest, the words “Chuck Schumer” and “legislation” are not exactly music to my ears. But it is not necessarily a bad thing that someone is trying to tighten the leash a little when it comes to AI.

The stories of the encounters with Bing’s AI are right out of a dystopian sci-fi novel, and despite the dire warnings from multiple experts, governments and companies are rushing headlong toward a future no one can even come close to predicting.

The current incarnation of the government is not the one I would pick to rein in this technology. I have no idea how deep in bed our government is with AI, and I am sure that there are stories from within the Pentagon that might turn one’s hair white. But I also know that this technology has the potential to take mankind places it was never meant to go, and we have to start somewhere.

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