The deletion of the block indicates a larger power struggle between regulators and Big Tech in Europe. At the very least, the search giant needs more time to compare Bard to the EU’s AI bill, says Henk van Ess, visiting professor at the Freitek Axel Springer Academy of Journalism and Technology in Berlin. “The proposed regulation emphasizes the importance of transparency and traceability in AI systems,” he says. “It may be difficult for large language models such as Google Bard to fully comply with this requirement, as the decision-making process in these models can be complex and not easily explained.”
AI rules of law may also pose a problem if you train your Google Bard on a dataset that contains errors or biases, Van Ess adds. In April, researchers found they could induce Bard to deny climate change, mischaracterize the war in Ukraine, and cast doubt on vaccine efficacy. “Google is treading carefully,” says Robin Romm, founder of Berlin-based AI startup Apheris. “They are aware that Bard could be considered a product that enables high-risk applications, and this could put them at risk under the proposed regulation. The delay may be an attempt to buy time.”
Any high-profile mistakes in the EU could cost the company big in the months and years to come. Google will be sensitive to the fact that whatever happens now will likely affect negotiations over an AI law, according to Daniel Laufer, a senior policy analyst in Brussels with the digital rights group Access Now. “If, in the next six to seven months, ChatGPT, Bard, etc. are responsible for serious public bugs, then measures that would address those bugs could find their way into AI law,” he says.
The draft AI law rules aren’t expected to be approved until next year, but other EU regulations may already be causing Google headaches. Harshvardhan Pandit, associate professor in the Center for Adaptation at Dublin City University, says Europe’s new digital services law could also play a role when it comes to integrating Google’s Bard into its search setup. “Since Bard also acts as a search engine, the reason may be that Google is also testing ad integration into it and they don’t want to be subject to DSA at the moment,” says Pandit. The DSA introduces new rules about online advertising.
With competition to drive building more productive AI services, privacy laws in Europe are already causing problems for new services. “There is a lingering question as to whether these massive data sets, collected more or less by random scraping, have a sufficient legal basis under the GDPR,” says Laufer. At the end of March, the data regulator in Italy temporarily blocked ChatGPT for not following the block’s GDPR privacy rules. The regulator said OpenAI had “illegally” collected personal information from the web as part of its training data, as well as failing to inform people how their data was being used or develop tools to stop children from using ChatGPT.
The move resulted in OpenAI making changes to allow people to delete more data from ChatGPT, along with a host of other privileges. While ChatGPT is now available in Italy again, the country’s data regulator is still scrutinizing the technology. The decision prompted other EU countries to set up a joint task force to further investigate ChatGPT. Ireland’s Data Protection Authority, which deals with GDPR issues related to Google, Meta, Microsoft and Apple, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether it had discussed rolling out Bard in Europe with Google.
However, GDPR rules are likely one reason why Bard has not been launched in the European Economic Area (EEA), the group of countries that includes the EU bloc Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, says Norway’s Godin. He adds that the Norwegian authority has no information as to why the EU and EEA were excluded from Bard’s release.
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