Unravelling the Complexities -ChatGPT, Data Privacy, and GDPR

Elvin Mootoosamy August 18, 2023

The questions around ChatGPT’s adherence to UK GDPR requirements have stirred vigorous debates amongst the legal and tech communities. In this article, we’ll examine some of the complex data privacy issues concerning ChatGPT and its content-creating cousins. We’ll also explore how authorities outside the UK are handling these concerns.

ChatGPT – ‘Taking the world by storm’

Some of the more far-reaching applications of AI might well prove to be in the worlds of astrophysics and biomedical research. However, this revolutionary technology has received the most publicity in the accessible-to-all field of content generation. To use one of ChatGPT’s favourite cliches, the platform has ‘taken the world by storm’.

However, the prolific use of this innovative platform comes with questions about data privacy and the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – questions which none of us should duck. As you, a business owner, increasingly harness the power of AI, you have a duty to make yourself aware of the ramifications for data privacy and GDPR compliance.

Let’s explore this in a little detail.

ChatGPT and UK GDPR under the microscope

To gauge how ChatGPT measures up to UK GDPR, we need to look at several key factors –

1. Transparency and accountability
How AI models work – their decision-making processes – can be complex, making evaluating privacy risks and accountability for breaches difficult.

2. Data security
Training these models often involves the use of sensitive data, such as medical records or financial information. We all need to consider how to prevent unauthorised data access, use or disclosure.

3. Right to be forgotten
GDPR gives everyone the right to have their data removed from the systems of data-collecting and processing organisations. But this leaves us with two big questions – Does this right extend to AI content generation models like ChatGPT? How can it be enforced?

4. Bias and discrimination
ChatGPT can replicate biases present in the training data. This can result in potentially discriminatory outcomes, such as generating content that could be offensive or harmful to specific groups.

The UK Data Protection Regulator’s Guidelines

So, the big issue is this. How should businesses that use ChatGPT respond to these considerations? The challenge is being taken seriously in the UK at the highest level. The data protection regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), has published its stance on ChatGPT’s compliance with UK GDPR.

The ICO emphasises the importance of

  • defining the lawful basis for data processing
  • understanding your role as a controller, joint controller, or processor
  • undertaking a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA).

The regulator also highlights the need for

  • transparency
  • security risk mitigation
  • limiting unnecessary processing
  • complying with individual rights requests.

It has also pledged to scrutinise organisations employing generative AI, promising action against law violations and neglect of individual impacts.

Regulation beyond the UK – developments overseas

Earlier this year, the Italian data protection authority, Garante per la Protezione dei Dati Personali, took an interesting stance concerning ChatGPT’s privacy implications. It declared that OpenAI lacked a legal basis for collecting personal information embedded in its massive datasets. The regulator also expressed misgivings about ChatGPT’s lack of transparency and accountability and its potential to generate discriminatory content.

Consequently, in March 2023, the Italian government moved to ban the use of ChatGPT temporarily. Although the ban was lifted subsequently, it served to highlight the regulatory concerns, prompting many other countries to follow suit by investigating the platform’s compliance with data protection laws.

GDPR – An evolving legal landscape

The signs are that generative AI platforms will continue to face rigorous legal examination. In the short-to-medium-term future, we’re likely to witness many legal challenges to AI content generation models. We all need to stay aware of the potential privacy risks of AI and continually explore measures to mitigate them.

Mandatory compliance – where do we stand?

If you use or are considering using ChatGPT, you should carefully consider the potential risks and benefits. You should also ensure that you have appropriate safeguards in place to protect personal, sensitive special category data and child-related data.

In the UK, the regulations seem pretty straightforward. Adherence to UK GDPR isn’t optional but a stringent requirement. We all need to ensure that all activities involving ChatGPT comply with data protection laws. One option is to undertake a thorough DPIA (Data Protection Impact Assessment).

GDPR Compliance and Recogitate

Undoubtedly, the legal terrain surrounding AI and data protection is fast-evolving and demands continuous monitoring. Here at Recogitate, we’re here to lighten the GDPR load. We have developed solutions that address the regulatory issues. We can advise you on how to use AI safely within your business. As the legal complexities surrounding AI in business continue to unfold, we’re here to keep your business, and your ChatGPT work on the right side of compliance.

Contact us today.