FTC extends probe into OpenAI to comprehend if the business has disobeyed consumer protection regulations

July 14, 2023: The Federal Trade Commission is examining ChatGPT-owner OpenAI to comprehend if the business has disregarded consumer protection regulations.

The Washington Post, which first reported the news, published the FTC’s 20-page civil investigative demand, similar to a subpoena, outlining the critical focuses of the probe. A source familiar with the matter confirmed the authenticity of the document.

The FTC says in the document that the probe will focus on whether OpenAI has “engaged in dishonest or deceptive privacy or data security practices” or “engaged in unfair or deceptive practices relating to risks of harm to consumers, including reputational harm, in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.”

Artificial intelligence has evolved a hot issue in Washington, with lawmakers trying to understand whether new laws are needed to protect intellectual property and consumer data in the age of generative AI, which requires massive datasets to learn. The FTC and other agencies have emphasized that they already have the legal authority to pursue harm created by AI.

The probe is also an example of the FTC’s proactive oversight of a relatively nascent technology, in line with Chair Lina Khan’s stated goal of being “forward-looking” and paying attention to “next-generation technologies.”

The CID asks OpenAI to list the third parties with access to its large language models and their top ten customers or licensors, explain how they retain and use consumer information, obtain information to train their LLMs, and more. The document also asks how OpenAI assesses risk in LLMs and monitors and deals with misleading or disparaging statements about people.

The CID asks OpenAI to provide information about a bug the company disclosed in March 2020 that “allowed some users to see titles from another active user’s chat history” and “may have caused the unintentional visibility of payment-related information of 1.2% of the ChatGPT Plus subscribers who were active during a specific nine-hour window.”

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has mostly received a warm welcome in Washington until this point, with lawmakers praising his openness to discussing the technology and asking for regulations around it. But some AI experts have warned policymakers should also be aware that the company has incentives in articulating its vision of regulation and urged them to engage diverse voices.

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