Google's long-awaited introduction of its AI chatbot, Bard, into the European Union's landscape has hit a speed bump, as reported by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), Google's primary data protection authority within the region.
This recent development echoes the trails of OpenAI's rival chatbot, ChatGPT, which unveiled a free research preview back in November 2022 without imposing geographical restrictions on access.
Google's initial plan to roll out Bard in the EU "this week" hit a snag when it failed to provide the DPC with satisfactory details regarding data protection. In response, DPC deputy commissioner, Graham Doyle, highlighted the urgency to receive the necessary documents and address additional data protection queries with Google.
While the revised timeline for Bard's EU debut remains uncertain, it's worth noting that Europeans already enjoy access to OpenAI's ChatGPT research preview. Access to Bard is also potentially possible via a VPN set to a location where the tool is readily available, such as the U.S.
The specific concerns that the DPC has flagged with Google concerning Bard haven't been disclosed. However, EU data protection authorities (DPAs) have previously flagged issues with ChatGPT, including concerns about data processing for AI model training, adherence to regional privacy laws, and issues like AI-generated disinformation and child safety.
The DPC, in collaboration with other EU DPAs, has embarked on a concerted effort to scrutinize ChatGPT via the European Data Protection Board. As such, the DPC's examination of Google's Bard and any resulting insights will likely contribute to this joint effort.
This spring, OpenAI's ChatGPT encountered similar concerns from various EU DPAs, leading to a temporary halt of its service in Italy following the local DPA, Garante's intervention.
Interestingly, the DPC's commissioner, Helen Dixon, has previously advocated for a thorough understanding of the bloc's rules regarding AI technology before hastily imposing bans.
With Google's Bard in limbo, the nature of DPC's concerns remains under wraps, leaving the public guessing about the potential impact of these queries on the AI tool. The question now is whether Google might be obligated to offer similar privacy disclosures as OpenAI did with ChatGPT.
Google's official statement assures that they are in ongoing talks with privacy regulators to answer their questions and receive feedback, underpinning their commitment to responsibly expanding Bard's availability.