Canada federal and provincial privacy authorities investigate ChatGPT use of personal information News
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Canada federal and provincial privacy authorities investigate ChatGPT use of personal information

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) announced Thursday that it will jointly investigate OpenAI, the company behind the artificial intelligence chatbot “ChatGPT,” with provincial privacy authorities in British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec.

At the International Association of Privacy Professionals Canada Privacy Symposium 2023, federal Privacy Commissioner Philippe Dufresne said “[the OPC] will be investigating whether OpenAI’s practices comply with Canadian privacy law in relation to consent, openness and transparency, access, accuracy, and accountability, including whether the organization is collecting, using and disclosing personal information for an appropriate purpose.”

On the concept of privacy, Dufresne said:

Treating privacy as a fundamental right means treating it as a priority, and it means, in clear cases of conflict with private and public interest, privacy should prevail. Privacy supporting the public interest in Canada’s innovation means it is not a zero-sum game between privacy rights and public and private interests. We can have both, and Canadians deserve to have both.

The OPC initially launched an investigation into OpenAI on April 4, 2023 in response to a complaint claiming the company collected, used and disclosed personal information without consent. However, the OPC has decided to collaborate with provincial privacy authorities to jointly investigate the matter given the significant privacy implications of AI-powered ChatGPT on Canadians’ privacy rights.

As part of the ongoing investigation, the privacy regulators will determine whether OpenAI obtained “valid and meaningful consent” before collecting, using and disclosing Canadians’ personal information through ChatGPT, and whether OpenAI adhered to the principles of openness, transparency, access, accuracy, and accountability in its data collection practices, among other things.

This is not the first time ChatGPT has come under scrutiny for privacy concerns. For example, just last month, Italy temporarily banned the AI technology after the country’s data protection regulator launched a probe into ChatGPT’s suspected breach of privacy laws, namely the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. The ban was later lifted once OpenAI addressed the privacy issues raised.