Replika hit with data ban in Italy over child safety

Occurred: February 2023

AI chatbot Replika was banned from processing user data in Italy due to the risks it could pose to minors and emotionally vulnerable people.

In February 2023, Italy's privacy regulator ordered Replika to stop processing Italians' data on the basis that it lacked a proper legal basis for processing children’s data under the EU’s GDPR, and that it posed risks to minors. 

According to the watchdog said '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.'

'Recent media reports along with tests the SA [supervisory authority] carried out on ‘Replika’ showed that the app carries factual risks to children — first and foremost, the fact that they are served replies which are absolutely inappropriate to their age,' it added. 

Replika subsequently removed the ability for the chatbot to engage in NSFW talk, triggering a backlash from long-term users.

Developer: Luka Inc/Replika
Country: Italy
Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts
Purpose: Provide companionship
Technology: Chatbot; NLP/text analysis; Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning
Issue: Safety; Privacy
Transparency: Governance

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