Italian regulators investigate online AI data scraping


The Italian Data Protection Authority has launched a “fact-finding” probe into the security practices of public and private websites to prevent AI data scraping.

The Italian Data Protection Authority, a local privacy regulator, announced the launch of a “fact-finding” investigation on Nov. 22, in which it will look into the practice of data gathering to train artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.

The investigation aims to verify the adoption of appropriate security measures on public and private websites to prevent “web scraping” of personal data used for AI training via third parties from “the ‘spiders’ of the manufacturers of artificial intelligence algorithms.”

According to the regulator, this “fact-finding survey” applies to all public and private subjects operating as data controllers, established in Italy or offering services in Italy that provide freely accessible personal data online.

Although it did not name specific companies, it said that it is “in fact” known that “various AI platforms” scrape the web for the purpose of collecting large quantities of personal data. It said after the investigation it will take any necessary measures “even urgently.”

In July, Google was hit with a class-action lawsuit in the United States over its new AI data-scraping privacy policy across its web services for its own AI algorithmic training purposes. 

Related: Italian senator provokes parliament with AI-generated speech

Italian regulators invited AI industry experts, academics and others to participate in the process and share views or comments within 60 days.

The Italian privacy watchdog was one of the first to quickly scrutinize AI after it banned the popular AI chatbot ChatGPT from operating in Italy due to privacy breaches in March 2023. In May, Italy set aside millions of euros in a designated fund for workers at risk of AI replacement. 

Earlier this week, Italy, France and Germany entered into an agreement on future AI regulation, according to a joint paper seen by Reuters. The agreement is expected to help further similar negotiations on a European Union level. 

The three countries backed the idea of creating voluntary commitments for large and small AI providers in the European Union.

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