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Big Tech News – AI under fire

Italy has become the first Western country to block ChatGPT due to privacy concerns with immediate effect. The Italian privacy authority (  said that not only would it block OpenAI’s chatbot but it would also investigate whether it complied with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which governs the way in which personal data is used, processed and stored in the EU. The authority also claims that on 20 March the app had experienced a data breach involving user conversations and payment information. EFA’s view is that this alleged data breach is probably the legal basis on which the authority has the best argument for blocking ChatGPT. However, EFA points out that the Italian authority has often been a leader in the strict application of the EU’s data protection regulations. It can therefore be expected that Italy will lead the EU debate and may well get a general agreement between the national authorities to prevent ChatGPT being used in the EU. In that case, other privacy authorities around the world (including the SA’s Information Regulator) may well follow suit with bans.

This Newsletter reported on ChatGPT when it launched in November 2022. ChatGPT answers questions using natural, human-like language and it can also mimic other writing styles. It is based on Microsoft’s 2021 IoT database. Last month it was added to Bing, and there are plans to embed a version in the Microsoft Office apps, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Google’s equivalent, Bard, may be the next victim. Interestingly, Bard is only available at present to over 18s. One wonders if this will make it more acceptable.

There have been concerns over the potential risks of artificial intelligence from some key figures in tech, including Elon Musk, calling for these types of AI systems to be suspended amid fears that the race to develop them was out of control. The media buzz over AI was spurred on by a Goldman Sachs research paper : “The Potentially Large Effects of AI on Economic Growth”, which stated that 300m jobs would be replaced by AI. But that paper went on to say (and these are direct quotes) – “The combination of significant labor cost savings, new job creation, and higher productivity for non-displaced workers raises the possibility of a productivity boom that raises economic growth substantially”. “We estimate that generative AI could raise annual US labor productivity growth by just under 1½pp over a 10-year period following widespread adoption”. “The boost to global labour productivity could also be economically significant, and we estimate that AI could eventually increase annual global GDP by 7%”.

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Alastair Tempest

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