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Lawsuit Alleges Google’s Unauthorized Data Collection for AI Training

Google is facing a comprehensive lawsuit that accuses the tech giant of unlawfully scraping data from millions of users without their consent, infringing copyright laws, and exploiting this information to develop its artificial intelligence (AI) products. The proposed class action suit, filed on Tuesday in a California federal court by Clarkson Law Firm, follows a similar lawsuit against OpenAI last month. Google’s parent company Alphabet and its AI subsidiary DeepMind are also named defendants in the case.

The complaint claims that Google has been surreptitiously collecting and utilizing vast amounts of data from hundreds of millions of Americans, effectively appropriating their digital footprint. It alleges that this data has been leveraged to train Google’s AI products, including its chatbot Bard, and that the company has incorporated copyrighted works without authorization. The suit contends that Google’s actions amount to the covert appropriation of users’ personal and creative content.

In response, Halimah DeLaine Prado, Google’s general counsel, has dismissed the claims as baseless, asserting that the company has always been transparent about its use of publicly accessible information to train AI models responsibly and in compliance with its AI Principles. Prado referred to American law supporting the creation of new beneficial uses from public information and expressed confidence in refuting the allegations.

The lawsuit highlights a recent update to Google’s privacy policy, which explicitly acknowledges the company’s utilization of publicly available information to train AI models and tools like Bard. Google maintains that this update merely clarifies its existing practices, emphasizing the long-standing transparency regarding the use of public data.

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The legal action comes at a time when AI tools capable of generating written content and images have gained significant attention. However, this advancement has sparked legal concerns surrounding copyright violations and the potential use of personal and sensitive data, including information concerning children.

Tim Giordano, one of the attorneys representing Clarkson, emphasized the importance of recognizing that publicly available data does not equate to unrestricted use. Giordano argued that personal information and data are valuable assets owned by individuals, asserting that no entity has the right to exploit them for any purpose.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, including a temporary freeze on commercial access to and development of Google’s generative AI tools, such as Bard. Additionally, it requests unspecified damages and financial compensation for individuals whose data was allegedly misappropriated by Google. The law firm has identified eight plaintiffs, one of whom is a minor.

Giordano contrasted Google’s traditional indexing practices, where attributed links can drive engagement and potential sales, with the alleged scraping of data for AI training. He argued that this unauthorized use of data creates an alternative version of works that undermines the incentive to purchase them.

While users may have become accustomed to their digital data being collected for search results and targeted advertising, the incorporation of their data into AI training may be an entirely different matter. Giordano highlighted the unexpected and unintended use of personal information in this context.

Ryan Clarkson, a partner at the law firm, called on Google to provide users with the option to opt out of having their data used for AI training while still allowing them to utilize the internet for their everyday needs.

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As the lawsuit unfolds, it will be crucial to examine the implications of data collection practices and the boundaries of AI training within the legal landscape.

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