Federal Trade Commission Investigating OpenAI, ChatGPT Maker

The Federal Trade Commission (F.T.C.) opened an investigation into OpenAI, the company that made ChatGPT. The agency sent a 20-page letter asking questions, including how the start-up trains its A.I. models and treats personal data. According to the letter, they are looking at whether ChatGPT has harmed consumers through its data collection, publication of false information on individuals, and security practices and whether OpenAI is engaged in unfair or deceptive privacy or data security practices and unfair or deceptive practices relating to risks of harm to consumers.

This inquiry is the first indication that the technology will be increasingly scrutinized as people, businesses, and governments use more AI-powered products. Sam Altman, who leads OpenAI, said the fast-growing A.I. industry needs to be regulated. He testified in Congress to invite A.I. legislation and visited hundreds of lawmakers, aiming to set a policy agenda for the technology.

OpenAI is already seeing regulatory pressure internationally. Italy’s data protection authority banned ChatGPT, saying OpenAI unlawfully collected personal data from users and did not have an age-verification system in place to prevent minors from being exposed to illicit material. OpenAI made the changes the Italian authority asked for and restored the system. The investigation could force OpenAI to reveal how it built ChatGPT and what data sources it uses to develop its A.I. systems.

Chatbots are a major shift in how computer software is built and used. When OpenAI released ChatGPT in November, it demonstrated the ability to answer questions, write poetry, blend fact with fiction, and even make up information, a phenomenon that scientists call “hallucination.”

The company has been working to refine ChatGPT and reduce the frequency of biased, false, or otherwise harmful material.

The F.T.C.’s investigation into OpenAI can take several months, and it is unclear if it will lead to any action. Such investigations are private.

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