The recent temporary ban of OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot in Italy has resulted in a surge in virtual private network (VPN) use, according to Google Trends data. The ban followed a recent data leak of users’ chat messages and payment card information, prompting the Italian Data Protection Authority to instruct OpenAI to amend its data collection policies and respect privacy.
OpenAI has since geo-blocked access to the chatbot in Italy and offered refunds to subscribers of its paid ChatGPT Plus. However, the geo-block can be circumvented by using a VPN to switch to a non-Italian IP address. As a result, Google Trends data showed a significant increase in VPN-related searches from Italy. ChatGPT, which has already garnered over 100 million users worldwide since its launch two months ago, remains popular in Italy and elsewhere.
Users of OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot who had originally registered in Italy may have to create new accounts using a non-Italian IP address as the ban on the chatbot remains in place. The ban was implemented following a recent data leak of users’ chat messages and payment card information. The Italian Data Protection Authority instructed OpenAI to amend its data collection policies and respect privacy, and has given the company 20 days to respond to its concerns.
Italy had accused ChatGPT’s developer of unlawful data-collection practices, highlighting the absence of a legal basis that justifies the mass collection and storage of personal data. The watchdog also raised concerns over the absence of an age filter on the chatbot, which violates EU rules calling for compliance with GDPR.
Recent reports revealed that Samsung employees interacting with ChatGPT leaked the company’s sensitive data on three separate occasions, adding to concerns over privacy.