Two Engineers File Class Action Lawsuit Against OpenAI and Microsoft

A class action lawsuit has been filed against OpenAI and its main supporter, Microsoft, by two engineers in San Francisco federal court. The plaintiffs, identified as A.T. and J.H., allege that OpenAI unlawfully scraped personal data and professional expertise from the internet without permission to train its AI models, particularly tools like ChatGPT. They claim that the use of their personal information could potentially render them professionally obsolete.

In addition to the legal action, the plaintiffs are requesting that OpenAI and Microsoft implement meaningful safeguards to protect private data and incorporate ethical guidelines. They are also seeking unspecified damages.

According to the complaint, OpenAI has the ability to intercept and obtain various forms of information from individual users, including physical location and keystrokes, through applications and devices integrated with ChatGPT-4. The plaintiffs argue that they had a reasonable expectation that the information they shared on websites would not be intercepted for commercial purposes.

This is the second lawsuit related to similar issues brought against OpenAI and Microsoft. In June, the Clarkson Law Firm filed a complaint covering similar grounds. The recent complaint filed by the Morgan & Morgan personal injury firm extensively quotes the earlier lawsuit.

OpenAI’s shift from a nonprofit focused on AI research to a for-profit commercial model is noted in the complaint, particularly the change that occurred in 2019. Microsoft became involved with OpenAI in 2016, aiming to make AI technology more accessible. OpenAI transitioned to a for-profit model in 2019 to raise additional funds. Subsequently, the company entered into a partnership with Microsoft to develop artificial general intelligence, with Microsoft investing substantial amounts in the AI company.

Apart from these legal actions, OpenAI has faced lawsuits from creative writers who claim that their works have been scraped and incorporated into AI models without permission. Comedian Sarah Silverman, as well as authors Mona Awad and Paul Tremblay, have also filed copyright infringement lawsuits against OpenAI and Microsoft, alleging unauthorized use of their writing.

In August, there were reports that the New York Times was considering a lawsuit against OpenAI to protect its intellectual property rights over its articles. The Times had initially engaged in discussions with OpenAI for the use of its content in AI tools, but the conversation took a contentious turn regarding the utilization of writers’ original work.

It remains to be seen how these legal challenges will unfold for OpenAI and Microsoft, and what implications they may have for the future of AI development and data use.

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