business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  From the Washington Post:

"The Federal Trade Commission has opened an expansive investigation into OpenAI, probing whether the maker of the popular ChatGPT bot has run afoul of consumer protection laws by putting personal reputations and data at risk.

"The agency this week sent the San Francisco company a 20-page demand for records about how it addresses risks related to its AI models, according to a document reviewed by the Washington Post. The salvo represents the most potent regulatory threat to date to OpenAI’s business in the United States, as the company goes on a global charm offensive to shape the future of artificial intelligence policy.

"Analysts have called OpenAI’s ChatGPT the fastest-growing consumer app in history, and its early success set off an arms race among Silicon Valley companies to roll out competing chatbots. The company’s chief executive, Sam Altman, has emerged as an influential figure in the debate over AI regulation, testifying on Capitol Hill, dining with lawmakers and meeting with President Biden and Vice President Harris.

"But now the company faces a new test in Washington, where the FTC has issued multiple warnings that existing consumer protection laws apply to AI, even as the administration and Congress struggle to outline new regulations. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has predicted that new AI legislation is months away."

The New York Times notes that "the F.T.C.’s investigation poses the first major regulatory threat to OpenAI. Sam Altman, the start-up’s co-founder, testified in Congress in May and said he invited A.I. legislation to oversee the fast-growing industry, which is under scrutiny because of how the technology can potentially kill jobs and spread disinformation."

Regulators may have to expand their focus to include every company developing AI tools, and legislators may need to christen a new agency designed specially to deal with these issues.  It needs to be noted as the FTC announced this probe, Elon Musk - who just months ago was calling for a moratorium on AI development - launched his own AI startup, xAI.  (Which pretty much confirms what a lot of folks suspected, that Musk only wanted a moratorium for other companies so he could catch up.