OpenAI CEO’s backtracks on quitting EU threat
Sam Altman, CEO of Microsoft-backed OpenAI, has backtracked on recent comments that the company might leave the EU if the bloc ‘overregulates’ Artificial Intelligence which provoked frustration from EU lawmakers.
OpenAI is best known for being the provider of ChatGPT, which gathered over 100 million users in the first two months since its public launch in November.
Altman has spent the past week crisscrossing Europe, meeting top politicians in France, Spain, Poland, Germany and the UK to discuss the future of AI and the progress of ChatGPT. But at a conference in London on 24 May, he said the company could withdraw from Europe if it cannot comply with EU AI rules currently under discussion.
The comments sparked backlash, leading to Altman stepping back from the comments on Friday.
“Very productive week of conversations in Europe about how to best regulate AI! We are excited to continue to operate here and of course have no plans to leave,” he wrote on Twitter.
More than six months after OpenAI unveiled its AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT to the world, fears around its potential have provoked excitement and alarm – and brought it into conflict with regulators.
“The current draft of the EU AI Act would be over-regulating, but we have heard it’s going to get pulled back,” Altman said at the London conference.
Italian data protection authority bans ChatGPT citing privacy violations
The Italian privacy watchdog mandated a ban on the popular chatbot ChatGPT and launched an investigation on its provider OpenAI for suspected breaches of EU data protection rules.
One place Altman didn’t get to this week was Brussels, where EU regulators are working on the long-awaited EU AI Act, which could be the world’s first set of comprehensive rules globally to govern AI.
Altman cancelled a scheduled visit to Brussels, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters and OpenAI did not respond to a request for comment.
EU lawmakers responsible for shaping the AI Act disputed Altman’s claims. “I don’t see any dilution happening anytime soon,” Dragos Tudorache, a Romanian member of the European Parliament who is leading the drafting of EU proposals, told Reuters.
“We are nevertheless happy to invite Mr Altman to Parliament so he can voice his concerns and hear European lawmakers’ thoughts on these issues,” he said.
EU industry chief Thierry Breton also criticised the threat, saying the draft rules are not for negotiation.
French data protection authority lays out action plan on AI, ChatGPT
The French data protection watchdog, the National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL), published an action plan on Tuesday (16 May) addressing privacy concerns related to Artificial Intelligence, particularly generative applications like ChatGPT.
ChatGPT, the world’s most famous chatbot, expanded its …
Lawmakers won’t be ‘blackmailed’
Dutch MEP Kim van Sparrentak, who has also worked on the draft EU law, said she and her colleagues “shouldn’t let ourselves be blackmailed by American companies.”
“If OpenAI can’t comply with basic data governance, transparency, safety and security requirements, then their systems aren’t fit for the European market,” she said.
By February, ChatGPT set a record for the fastest-growing user base of any consumer application app in history.
OpenAI first clashed with regulators in March, when Italian data regulator Garante shut the app down domestically, accusing OpenAI of flouting European privacy rules. ChatGPT came back online after the company instituted new privacy measures for users.
Meanwhile, EU lawmakers added new proposals to the bloc’s AI Act, forcing any company using generative tools, like ChatGPT, to disclose any copyrighted material used to train its systems.
EU parliamentarians agreed on the draft of the act earlier this month. Member states, the European Commission and Parliament, will thrash out the bill’s final details.
Through the EU Council of Ministers, individual member states like France or Poland can also seek amendments before the bill is passed potentially later this year.
AI Act moves ahead in EU Parliament with key committee vote
The European Parliament’s leading parliamentary committees have green-lighted the AI Act in a vote on Thursday (11 May), paving the way for plenary adoption in mid-June.
The AI Act is a flagship legislation to regulate Artificial Intelligence based on its potential …
Plans in ‘full swing’
While the legislation has been in the works for two years, new provisions specifically targeting generative tools were drawn up only weeks ahead of a crunch vote on the proposals.
Reuters earlier reported that some lawmakers had initially proposed banning copyrighted material from training generative AI models altogether, but this was abandoned in favour of stronger transparency requirements.
“These provisions relate mainly to transparency, which ensures the AI and the company building it are trustworthy. I don’t see a reason why any company would shy away from transparency,” Tudorache said.
Nils Rauer, a technology partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, said it was “no surprise” Altman had made his comments as lawmakers worked through their proposals.
“It is unlikely OpenAI will turn its back on Europe. The EU is economically too important,” he said. “You cannot carve out the single market, with close to 500 million people and a 15-trillion-euro ($16.51 trillion) economy.”
Altman was in Munich, Germany, on Thursday, where he said he had met with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Sergey Lagodinsky, a German MEP who also worked on the legislation, said that while Altman may be trying to push his agenda among individual countries, Brussels’ plans to regulate the technology were “in full swing.”
“There may be some amendments, of course,” he said. “But I doubt they will change the overall trajectory.”