The popular AI chat app ChatGPT has been temporarily banned in Italy by the country’s privacy regulator due to allegations of privacy violations. The ban will remain in place until OPENAI satisfies the regulator’s requirements and complies with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Alleged GDPR Violations by OPENAI
The Italian privacy regulator believes that OPENAI has not complied with GDPR in handling Italian users’ data. For example, the regulator claims that OPENAI lacks the legal basis to prove the necessity of collecting and storing large amounts of personal data to train ChatGPT’s algorithm. The regulator also believes that OPENAI processes user data inaccurately.
Concerns over Age Verification and Content Filtering
A key issue that may draw the attention of other EU member states is the lack of age verification during ChatGPT account registration, allowing minors to use the service. Additionally, ChatGPT does not provide age-restricted content filtering, potentially exposing minors to inappropriate content.
OPENAI Blocks Access from Italian IP Addresses
In response to the ban, OPENAI has implemented Cloudflare’s access restriction feature to identify and block all Italian IP addresses from accessing ChatGPT. When an Italian IP address attempts to access ChatGPT, OPENAI displays a message stating that access is restricted due to regulatory requirements. Users who have subscribed to ChatGPT Plus will receive a refund, and their subscription plan will be temporarily suspended, but not canceled, until the Italian regulator deems ChatGPT compliant.
Bypassing Restrictions with VPN
In theory, Italian users can bypass OPENAI’s restrictions using a VPN. However, OPENAI has implemented risk control rules that may still limit access for users whose accounts were initially registered with an Italian IP address. To gain access, Italian users may need to use a VPN with a supported region’s IP address and create a new account.
OPENAI’s Commitment to Privacy
In a public statement, OPENAI said, “We are committed to protecting people’s privacy, and we believe that our ChatGPT service complies with GDPR and other privacy laws. We will work with regulators to restore access for Italian users as soon as possible.”