Italy plans full review of all AI tools on market

Italy’s privacy watchdog says it won’t stop at ChatGPT and plans to create an AI advisory board to closely review the data collection practices of all artificial intelligence platforms currently available online today, plus those released in the future.

The three-person advisory board of AI experts will be tasked with scrutinizing the powerful technology in regard to how compliant the AI platforms are in accordance with EU data privacy rules.

Top officials from Italy's data protection authority Garante said the new AI advisory board will be in addition to its current four-member panel of privacy law experts.

"We plan to kick off a wide-scope review of generative and machine learning AI applications which are available online because we want to understand if these new tools are addressing issues linked to data protection and privacy laws compliance - and we will start new probes if needed," said Garante's board member Agostino Ghiglia.

In March, Garante temporarily banned the popular ChatGPT platform over admitted data leaks and suspected violations of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

ChatGPT was reinstated in April after its Microsoft-backed creators, OpenAI, met the watchdog’s privacy demands for greater transparency of its data collection practices.

Those demands included added protections for users 13 years and under, as well as an opt-out feature for individuals who do not want their chat history and query sessions to be used to train and improve the fourth-generation AI chatbot.

"We are looking for three AI advisers because we are aware AI tools are evolving very quickly and we need experts with tech background to help us in our data protection activity," Ghiglia said.

Garante is considered the most proactive of the European Union’s 31 national data protection authorities overseeing GDPR compliance.

The watchdog agency was also the first to ban AI chatbot company Replika, impose fines on the facial recognition software maker Clearview AI, and restrict TikTok in Europe over privacy concerns.

"Members of the Garante board often become aware of potential breaches of privacy laws because we simply explore digital tools and applications once they are available," Ghiglia said.

Garante decided to act swiftly by banning ChatGPT after board members “realized it was not compliant with EU data privacy rules," Ghiglia said.

Other tech giants, such as Apple, Amazon, and Meta Platforms, are currently developing and testing their own rival ChatGPT large language models for future release.

Earlier this month, Alphabet's Google announced the rollout of its own generative AI model, Bard, to users in the US, with no mention of its release in the EU.

Google's Bard will be made available to users in over 180 countries and territories across the world except for the EU (and Canada). Many insiders believe the exclusion is due to Google not wanting to go up against the GDPR's stricter privacy rules.

The European Data Protection Board, the umbrella organization of all EU privacy watchdogs, set up its own ChatGPT task force to create a common policy on AI privacy.

Experts say it could be years before new legislation regulating AI comes into force.

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