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OpenAI Faces $3 Billion Lawsuit for Alleged Unauthorized Use of Private Data in Training AI


OpenAI, the organization behind the development of ChatGPT, has been hit with a $3bn lawsuit over accusations of illegitimately harvesting extensive volumes of personal data to train its artificial intelligence systems, in a race for profitability.

The company, alongside its principal supporter Microsoft, was sued on Wednesday by a group of sixteen pseudonymous plaintiffs. These individuals allege the AI products created by the two companies, predicated on ChatGPT, have been collecting and distributing their personal information without proper notice or consent.

The lawsuit

The suit was filed in a federal court in San Francisco, California, and posits that both businesses eschewed legal methods of data acquisition, opting instead to collect it without remuneration.

The plaintiffs, who chose to remain anonymous to avoid potential reprisals, are identified only by their initials and professions or interests. The suit, prepared by the Clarkson Law Firm and filed on Wednesday, claims a potential $3 billion in damages. The plaintiffs believe that the number of individuals who have been affected could be in the millions.

The legal document accuses OpenAI of infringing privacy laws by clandestinely amassing 300 billion words from the internet, including content from books, articles, websites, and posts, some of which contains personal information acquired without consent. The 157-page document further asserts that OpenAI should have registered as a data broker as per the law.

The complaint states that the two corporations, via their AI products, “collect, store, track, share, and disclose” the personal information of millions of individuals. The data allegedly includes product details, account information, names, contact details, login credentials, emails, payment information, transaction records, browser data, social media information, chat logs, usage data, analytics, cookies, searches, and other online activity.

It further warns of a potential “civilizational collapse” due to the enormous volume of information that has been collected, stored, and processed by these AI products.

OpenAI has been developing a series of text-generating large language models, including GPT-2, GPT-4, and ChatGPT. Microsoft, a major advocate of this technology, has integrated it extensively within its business, from Windows to Azure.

Skepticism surrounding AI

Although the complaint features numerous references to media and academic sources expressing concerns over AI models and ethics, it is light on specific instances of harm. Representatives for both OpenAI and Microsoft have yet to comment on the lawsuit.

Concerns about AI continue to rise worldwide, with growing worries about privacy infringements and the spread of misinformation. Steps to restrict its usage have been taken by experts, businesses, organizations, and governments. Meanwhile, the US Congress is currently assessing the potential risks and benefits of AI technology.

Earlier this year, OpenAI’s leaders advocated for stricter regulation of “super-intelligent” AI to prevent catastrophic misuse. They proposed a body akin to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to mitigate the risk of inadvertently creating a potentially destructive entity.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue that OpenAI has deviated from its original mission to advance AI in a manner most beneficial to humanity as a whole, accusing the company of prioritizing profits over ethical considerations. They allege that OpenAI has wrongfully accessed private data from individuals using its products, and from applications that have integrated ChatGPT, which enables the company to gather various types of data, including image and location data, music preferences, financial information, and private conversations, as per the lawsuit. The expected revenue for ChatGPT in 2023, according to the suit, is $200 million.




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