OpenAI Faces Complaint over Fictional Outputs

European data protection advocacy group noyb has filed a complaint against OpenAI over the company’s inability to correct inaccurate information generated by ChatGPT. The group alleges that OpenAI’s failure to ensure the accuracy of personal data processed by the service violates the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union.

“Making up false information is quite problematic in itself. But when it comes to false information about individuals, there can be serious consequences,” said Maartje de Graaf, Data Protection Lawyer at noyb. 

“It’s clear that companies are currently unable to make chatbots like ChatGPT comply with EU law when processing data about individuals. If a system cannot produce accurate and transparent results, it cannot be used to generate data about individuals. The technology has to follow the legal requirements, not the other way around.”

The GDPR requires that personal data be accurate, and individuals have the right to rectification if data is inaccurate, as well as the right to access information about the data processed and its sources. However, OpenAI has openly admitted that it cannot correct incorrect information generated by ChatGPT or disclose the sources of the data used to train the model.

“Factual accuracy in large language models remains an area of active research,” OpenAI has argued.

The advocacy group highlights a New York Times report that found chatbots like ChatGPT “invent information at least 3 percent of the time – and as high as 27 percent.” In the complaint against OpenAI, noyb cites an example where ChatGPT repeatedly provided an incorrect date of birth for the complainant, a public figure, despite requests for rectification.

“Despite the fact that the complainant’s date of birth provided by ChatGPT is incorrect, OpenAI refused his request to rectify or erase the data, arguing that it wasn’t possible to correct data,” noyb stated.

OpenAI claimed it could filter or block data on certain prompts, such as the complainant’s name, but not without preventing ChatGPT from filtering all information about the individual. The company also failed to adequately respond to the complainant’s access request, which the GDPR requires companies to fulfil.

“The obligation to comply with access requests applies to all companies. It is clearly possible to keep records of training data that was used to at least have an idea about the sources of information,” said de Graaf. “It seems that with each ‘innovation,’ another group of companies thinks that its products don’t have to comply with the law.”

European privacy watchdogs have already scrutinised ChatGPT’s inaccuracies, with the Italian Data Protection Authority imposing a temporary restriction on OpenAI’s data processing in March 2023 and the European Data Protection Board establishing a task force on ChatGPT.

In its complaint, noyb is asking the Austrian Data Protection Authority to investigate OpenAI’s data processing and measures to ensure the accuracy of personal data processed by its large language models. The advocacy group also requests that the authority order OpenAI to comply with the complainant’s access request, bring its processing in line with the GDPR, and impose a fine to ensure future compliance.

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