April 12, 2024

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into ChatGPT’s artificial intelligence startup OpenAI, investigating whether the chatbot has harmed consumers by collecting data and posting personal false information.

In a 20-page letter sent to the San Francisco company this week, the agency said it was also investigating OpenAI’s security practices. In the letter, the FTC posed dozens of questions to the company, including how the startup trains its artificial intelligence models and handles personal data.

The findings are reported earlier The Washington Post reported and was confirmed by a person familiar with the investigation.

The FTC investigation poses the first major regulatory threat to OpenAI. Sam Altman, the startup’s co-founder, testified before Congress in May that he invited AI legislation to oversee the fast-growing industry, which is being closely watched because the technology Loss of job opportunities and disinformation may result.

OpenAI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

When OpenAI first released ChatGPT in November, it immediately captured the public’s imagination with its ability to answer questions, write poems, and improvise on almost any topic. But the technology can also blend fact with fiction and even fabricate information, a phenomenon scientists call “illusioning.”

ChatGPT is powered by what artificial intelligence researchers call neural networks. The technology can also translate between French and English on services like Google Translate and identify pedestrians as self-driving cars navigate city streets. Neural networks learn skills by analyzing data. For example, it can learn to recognize cats by pinpointing patterns in thousands of cat photos.

Researchers at labs such as OpenAI design neural networks that can analyze vast amounts of digital text, including Wikipedia articles, books, news stories and online chat logs. These systems, known as large language models, have learned to generate text on their own, but can repeat flawed information or combine facts in ways that produce inaccurate information.

Chatbots like ChatGPT are also being deployed by companies like Google and Microsoft, and represent a major shift in the way computer software is built and used. They are poised to reinvent Internet search engines like Google Search and Bing, voice-enabled digital assistants like Alexa and Siri, and email services like Gmail and Outlook.

This is a story of development. Please check back for updates.

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