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ChatGPT taken offline in Italy over privacy concerns

OpenAI's chatbot ChatGPT has been taken offline in Italy after the country's Data Protection Authority (DPA) temporarily banned the program over privacy concerns, the company said Friday. 

The Italian DPA, also called Garante, accused the Microsoft-backed chat program of failing to enforce a 13-year age requirement for ChatGPT users, and launched an investigation into its practices. ChatGPT has "no legal basis underpinning the massive collection and processing of personal data in order to 'train' the algorithms on which the platform relies," Garante said in a press release.

OpenAI was told by Garante that it has 20 days to come up with potential solutions to the outlined problems. If not, it could be fined up to 20 million euros ($21.68 million) or four percent of global revenue under the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — whichever is higher. 

Despite the insistence of Italian regulators, OpenAI maintains that it did nothing wrong, and told BBC News that ChatGPT "complied with all privacy laws." In another statement obtained by The Guardianthe company said it was "committed to protecting people's privacy and we believe we comply with GDPR and other privacy laws," and reiterated that it had always been in line with the laws of the European Union. 

OpenAI works "to reduce personal data in training our AI systems like ChatGPT because we want our AI to learn about the world, not about private individuals," the company added. 

While there has been pushback in recent months against the rising use of chatbots such as ChatGPT, Italy's decision is "one of the first nationwide measures restricting the use of ChatGPT since its popularity exploded globally," The Wall Street Journal reported. Both in "the U.S. and across Europe, calls have been mounting to regulate the self-generative AI tool over concerns ranging from data protection to disinformation to job safety," the Journal added.