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The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into the popular chatbot ChatGPT. The agency says it is investigating whether the AI tool has harmed people by generating incorrect information about them, according to a letter sent to its parent company OpenAI.
The FTC investigation, which was first reported by The Washington Post, also examines OpenAI’s privacy and data security practices. A person familiar with the matter confirmed the investigation. The FTC declined to comment, and OpenAI did not respond to request for comment.
The 20-page letter asks OpenAI to turn over company records and data on several issues, including company policies and procedures, financial earnings, and details of major language models it uses to train his chatbot.
The agency wrote that it was looking into whether the company had “engaged in unfair or deceptive practices regarding the risk of harm to consumers, including reputational damage.”
The FTC investigation breaks new ground with government regulatory action involving the AI industry, which has exploded in popularity over the past year. Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, has regularly warned of the risks of AI and advised that the new technology must be regulated. He testified before Congress and met with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Lawmakers from New York to California have sought to regulate this burgeoning technology. Congressman Ted Lieu, D-CA, has proposed creating an AI commission to study the impact of the technology. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, DN.Y., is working on possible AI legislation. But experts say regulation could take months or even years.
“OpenAI, Microsoft and other companies selling generative AI systems have said they welcome the regulation,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. “The FTC responded appropriately by requesting detailed disclosure of how industry leader OpenAI assembles and refines its artificial intelligence models.”
Under Commissioner Lina Khan, the FTC has gone after big tech companies like Meta, Amazon and Microsoft. The watchdog agency has also repeatedly said AI falls under consumer protection laws.
“There is no AI exemption from the books laws,” Khan said at a press conference in April.
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