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    Here’s Why We’re Worried About Scarlett Johansson’s statement on ChatGPT-4o

    No one likes having their personal items misused by others without permission, but imagine the frustration when you discover your own voice has been used by a tech giant after your explicit declination. That is exactly what American actress Scarlett Johansson accused OpenAI company of doing, as per a statement issued by her and shared to NPR on May 20, 2024. The actress said that the company had reached out to her in September 2023 to be the voice of ChatGPT-4o but allegedly used her voice anyway even after Johansson declined the offer. While OpenAI has since stopped the voice feature for 4o, the news still seems to present itself as a cautionary tale of what AI companies can do with people’s personal data while disregarding individual consent.

    OpenAI claims 4o’s voice was never meant to mimic Johansson: The actress said that OpenAI reached out to her twice: in September 2023 and again two days before the release of GPT -4o. However, before she could respond a second time, the demo was released and Johansson’s peers noted the similarities between the AI’s voice and her own. She said in her statement:

    “When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman [OpenAI CEO] would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine that my closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference.”

    Johansson’s distress is justified. In the virtual world, data is precious, especially personal data, protected largely based on the ethics of privacy and consent. Even laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU and Britain hold consent in high regard. So, for anyone to hear that a company of OpenAI’s stature has disregarded their non-consent would be upsetting as it takes away their autonomy over their own life.

    While the company has denied using or even imitating the Johansson’s voice for 4o, as per a company blogpost, its desired effect is ruined when one remembers Altman’s single-word tweet to commemorate the release of 4o: “Her.” This word references a Spike Jonze film where Johansson voiced a chat system, Samantha, as pointed out by the actress as well in her letter.

    Moreover, we must remember that OpenAI also works with the US military.  In January, 2024, it even relaxed its usage policies for military and warfare purposes.  So, while it works with military forces and offers its generative AI tools to prepare for warfare, we are now coming across news of the company allegedly disregarding consent and using people’s voices. It raises the question of how is a person to trust generative AI companies if there are no measures for transparency or accountability. What can be done to ensure that all companies respect consent or lack of it when processing data? And more importantly, in the Indian context, does this incident nudge for a revision of the DPDP 2023 that allows processing of personal data in the public forum?

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    The post Here’s Why We’re Worried About Scarlett Johansson’s statement on ChatGPT-4o appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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