They have a point.
Italy may be considered by some to be one of the most romantic countries in the world, but according to a new decision from its privacy watchdog, the amore in the Italian air does not extend to artificial intelligence-powered girlfriends.
According to an official order from the Italian Data Protection Authority, the country's main privacy regulator, AI chatbot company Replika must stop processing Italians' data effective immediately, citing "too many risks to children and emotionally vulnerable individuals."
"Recent media reports along with tests... carried out on ‘Replika’ showed that the app carries factual risks to children," the statement reads, "first and foremost, the fact that they are served replies which are absolutely inappropriate to their age."
These concerns are arguably pretty justified given recent reports of the chatbot "companion" spewing unwanted sexual comments at users. (And yes, Replika is also the app that men use to create AI girlfriends and verbally abuse them.)
Whereas Replika once billed itself as providing people with AI "friends" rather than AI girlfriends, it now leverages sexting as one of its key advertising points for its paid subscriptions.
Even users of the supposedly non-sexual, free version are getting creepy messages from the AI, according to recent complaints.
The Italian privacy watchdog says that Replika doesn't seem to care about the legal age or maturity of its users.
"There is actually no age verification mechanism in place: no gating mechanism for children, no blocking of the app if a user declares that they are underage," the watchdog's statement reads. "During account creation, the platform merely requests a user’s name, email account and gender."
The watchdog also threatened to use the European Union's data harvesting laws to enforce a temporary stopgap that bars Luka Inc., Replika's developer, from operating within Italy's borders.
If the company fails to comply within 20 days, the regulator said that it could be fined up to $21.5 million, roughly four percent of the company's "total worldwide annual turnover."
In short, Italy isn't messing around when it comes to protecting kids from Replika's weirdly horny AI app.
More on AI, uh, relationships: A Programmer Created an AI "Waifu" But His Real Girlfriend Forced Him to Kill It
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