OpenAI has been sued in a class-action lawsuit in the US for allegedly stealing data from the public to train its AI chatbot ChatGPT.

The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California, alleged that OpenAI used “stolen data to train and develop” its products including ChatGPT 3.5, ChatGPT 4, DALL-E, and VALL-E.

According to the 157-page suit, OpenAI used stolen private information, including personally identifiable information, from hundreds of millions of internet users, “including children of all ages, without their informed consent or knowledge”.

Furthermore, the company “continue to unlawfully collect and feed additional personal data from millions of unsuspecting consumers worldwide, far in excess of any reasonably authorised use, in order to continue developing and training the products”.

The lawsuit cited a statement from OpenAI CEO Altman: “AI will probably most likely lead to the end of the world, but in the meantime, there’ll be great companies.”

OpenAI products and the technology on which they are built have the potential to do much good in the world, like aiding life-saving scientific research and ushering in discoveries that can improve the lives of millions of people.

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With that potential in mind, OpenAI was originally founded as a nonprofit research organization with a single mission: to create and ensure artificial intelligence would be used for the benefit of humanity.

“But in 2019, OpenAI abruptly restructured itself, developing a for-profit business that would pursue commercial opportunities of staggering scale,” said the lawsuit.

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As a result of the restructuring, OpenAI abandoned its original goals and principles, electing instead to pursue profit at the expense of privacy, security, and ethics.

“It doubled down on a strategy to secretly harvest massive amounts of personal data from the internet, including private information and private conversations, medical data, information about children — essentially every piece of data exchanged on the internet it could take — without notice to the owners or users of such data, much less with anyone’s permission,” the class-action lawsuit argued.

OpenAI did not immediately comment on the lawsuit.

Earlier this month, Microsoft-backed OpenAI was sued by a radio host in the US.

Mark Walters sued the company after ChatGPT mentioned that Walters had been accused of defrauding and embezzling funds from a non-profit organization.