The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into OpenAI, the AI startup that makes ChatGPT, over whether the chatbot harmed consumers by collecting data and spreading false information about individuals.
In a 20-page letter sent to the San Francisco company this week, the agency said it is also looking into OpenAI’s security practices. The FTC asked the company dozens of questions in its letter, including how to train the startup on its AI models and handle personal data.
was the investigation I mentioned earlier By The Washington Post and confirmed by a person familiar with the investigation.
The FTC investigation poses OpenAI’s first major regulatory threat. Sam Altman, co-founder of the startup, testified in Congress in May and said he called for AI legislation to oversee the fast-growing industry, which is under scrutiny for how the technology can kill jobs and spread misinformation.
OpenAI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When OpenAI first released ChatGPT in November, it instantly captured the public’s imagination with its ability to answer questions, write poetry, and talk about almost any topic. But technology can also mix fact with fiction and even fabricate information, a phenomenon scientists call “hallucinations.”
ChatGPT is governed by what AI researchers call a neural network. This is the same technology that translates between French and English in services like Google Translate and identifies pedestrians as self-driving cars navigating city streets. A neural network learns skills by analyzing data. By identifying patterns in thousands of pictures of cats, for example, it can learn to identify a cat.
Researchers at labs like OpenAI have built neural networks that analyze huge amounts of digital text, including Wikipedia articles, books, news stories, and online chat logs. Known as large language models, these systems have learned to generate text on their own but may repeat faulty information or combine facts in ways that produce inaccurate information.
Chat bots such as ChatGPT, which are also being deployed by companies such as Google and Microsoft, represent a major shift in the way computer software is designed and used. They’re ready to reinvent Internet search engines like Google Search and Bing, talk about digital assistants like Alexa and Siri, and email services like Gmail and Outlook.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.