Google has had to delay the debut of its Bard chatbot in the European Union while privacy questions are resolved.
In the US, the Chocolate Factory introduced Bard, “an experimental conversational AI service,” back in February amid a surge of enthusiasm for OpenAI’s rival ChatGPT and curiosity about Microsoft’s integration of generative AI into its Bing search engine as well as into its software and cloud empire.
The rollout of Google’s bot was rocky. Bard’s errant answer to a question coincided with a $120 billion (10 percent) decline in Alphabet’s market value, though the company stock appears to have recovered.
Some within Google are said to be concerned that the search business – the corporation’s cash cow – will come to be dominated by large language models and chatbots, to the detriment of its ranked index of search-engine-optimized webspam, listicles, clickbait, and occasional content.
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google parent Alphabet, marked the occasion by describing how generative AI models may be useful.
“One of the most exciting opportunities is how AI can deepen our understanding of information and turn it into useful knowledge more efficiently – making it easier for people to get to the heart of what they’re looking for and get things done,” he explained at Bard’s arrival.
Since then, enthusiasm has been tempered by copyright concerns and people shooting themselves in the foot by relying on a technology that isn’t presently reliable. At least that’s the case in the legal community after a New York judge weighed sanctioning a lawyer for submitting a brief citing non-existent cases that had been hallucinated by ChatGPT.
And Google employees reportedly have voiced similar skepticism about Bard’s readiness for general availability.
These bots – Bard, ChatGPT, etc – can help people in their work in some cases, but the technology is still too flaky and unreliable for serious use.
“Google recently informed the DPC of its intention to launch Bard in the EU this week,” said Graham Doyle, Deputy Commissioner of the Irish Data Protection Commission, in an email to The Register. “The DPC had not had any detailed briefing nor sight of a DPIA or any supporting documentation at this point.
“It has since sought this information as a matter of urgency and has raised a number of additional data protection questions with Google to which it awaits a response and Bard will not now launch this week. The matter is under ongoing examination by the DPC and we will be sharing information with our fellow DPAs as soon as we receive further answers to our questions.”
Under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, the Irish DPC has supervisory authority over Google.
For its part, Google considers the delay to be a routine matter, one that hasn’t changed the company’s commitment to make Bard more widely available once concerns get ironed out.
“We said in May that we wanted to make Bard more widely available, including in the European Union, and that we would do so responsibly, after engagement with experts, regulators and policymakers,” a corp spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “As part of that process, we’ve been talking with privacy regulators to address their questions and hear feedback.”
Time however appears not to be on Google’s side. EU lawmakers just voted to approve rules intended to insure AI safety that impose transparency requirements, copyright assurances, and commitments not to generate illegal content. Bard may soon find itself performing before an even more demanding crowd.