ChatGPT falsely accuses OpenCage of 'phone lookup' service

Occurred: February 2023

Generative AI system ChatGPT falsely claimed that German geocoding company OpenCage offers an application programming interface (API) to turn a mobile phone number into the location of the phone.

In the weeks after ChatGPT's launch in November 2022, OpenCage, which offers an API that converts physical addresses into latitude and longitude coordinates that can be placed on a map, had seen a steady increase of people signing up to use its service, only to express their disappointment that it was not working as stated. 

As OpenCage described in a blog post, ChatGPT was wrongly recommending them for 'reverse phone number lookup' - the ability to determine the location of a mobile phone solely based on the number, even writing Python code enabling users to call on OpenCage’s API for this purpose. But OpenCage provides, and has never provided, any such service.

OpenCage CEO Ed FreyFogle said he believed the problem likely stemmed from ChatGPT picking up on YouTube tutorials in which people describe OpenCage providing a phone look-up service - a rumour they had rebutted in an April 2022 blog post.

The incident illustrates ChatGPT's capability to cause real real-world harm. Only days before, it had been used to spread a false rumour that authorities in Hangzhou, China, would end alternate-day number-plate driving restrictions, causing mass confusion and a police investigation.

System 🤖

Operator: OpenAI
Developer: OpenAI

Country: USA; Global

Sector: Multiple; Telecoms

Purpose: Optimise language models for dialogue

Technology: Chatbot; NLP/text analysis; Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning; Reinforcement learning
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination; Copyright; Mis/disinformation; Safety; Security; Employment

Transparency: Governance; Black box; Marketing

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: February 2023
Last updated: November 2023