OpenAI Inc., the creator of ChatGPT, finds itself embroiled in a legal battle as it faces allegations of unlawfully obtaining and utilizing vast amounts of personal information for training its AI models. The company, along with its major supporter Microsoft, has been hit with a class action lawsuit seeking $3 billion (£2.4 billion) in damages. Sixteen individuals, identified pseudonymously, claim that OpenAI's AI products, based on ChatGPT, collected and disclosed their data without proper notice or consent.
The lawsuit asserts that OpenAI and Microsoft resorted to "secret scraping of the internet" to develop their AI tools, disregarding legal avenues for data acquisition and choosing to obtain it without authorization or compensation.
To protect their identities, the petitioners are referred to only by their occupations or interests in the lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court in California. The Clarkson Law Firm, representing the plaintiffs, estimates that millions of individuals fall into the category of harmed parties, potentially resulting in the claimed damages of $3 billion.
Lawsuit Alleges OpenAI's Data Theft
According to the extensive 157-page lawsuit, OpenAI violated privacy laws by systematically scraping 300 billion words from the internet. The collected data includes personal information sourced from "books, articles, websites, and posts," obtained without the required consent or registration as a data broker, as mandated by applicable law.
The lawsuit further accuses OpenAI and Microsoft's AI products of "collecting, storing, tracking, sharing, and disclosing" the personal information of millions of people. This includes details such as product information, account details, names, contact information, login credentials, emails, payment information, transaction records, browser data, social media details, chat logs, usage data, analytics, cookies, search history, and other online activities.
Moreover, the complaint raises concerns about the potential risk of "civilisational collapse" due to the vast amount of information accumulated, stored, and processed within OpenAI's AI products.
Insufficient Filtering of Personally Identifiable Information
The complaint contends that OpenAI inadequately filters out personally identifiable information from its training models, thereby placing millions of individuals at risk of having their personal information disclosed to strangers worldwide. The Register's March 18, 2021, special report is cited to support this claim. However, the complaint lacks specific instances of harm caused. OpenAI and Microsoft are yet to respond to the $3 billion lawsuit.
Doubts Surrounding AI
While ChatGPT is an undoubtedly fascinating technological achievement, concerns loom large regarding its implications, particularly in the realms of privacy and misinformation. Globally, experts, businesses, organizations, and governments have started taking measures to regulate its usage. The US Congress, for instance, is currently deliberating on the potential benefits and dangers of AI, especially concerning its impact on creative industries and the ability to distinguish fact from fiction.
OpenAI's leaders themselves have previously called for stricter regulations governing "super intelligent" AIs, emphasizing the need to safeguard the world from potential machine-induced destruction.
The widespread development and acceptance of generative AI have faced increasing scepticism, further exacerbated by the recent revelations of OpenAI's unauthorized scraping of personal data.
Alleged Misuse of Private Data by ChatGPT
The plaintiffs allege that OpenAI misappropriated private data on a massive scale as part of an "AI arms race." They claim that the company illegally accessed individuals' private information through their interactions with ChatGPT and through integrations with various applications. These integrations enable OpenAI to collect image and location data from Snapchat, music preferences from Spotify, financial information from Stripe, and private conversations from platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams.
The lawsuit argues that OpenAI's pursuit of profits has led it to abandon its original principle of advancing AI for the benefit of humanity as a whole. The legal action projects OpenAI's expected revenue for 2023 at $200 million.
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