Google is accused of illegally using copyrighted content and stealing the personal information of millions of Americans to train its AI products.
The allegations were made in a proposed class action lawsuit in San Francisco on Tuesday by eight individuals, who say they are seeking to represent the millions of internet users affected.
If Google is found guilty of violating federal privacy and consumer protection laws, it could owe at least $5 billion in damages.
Why we care. Marketers are widely being encouraged to embrace AI and implement technologies such as ChatGPT and Bard into their strategies. However, if AI products are being developed using content and data that has been taken illegally, this could prove to be problematic, as it runs the risk of potential copyright issues.
What has Google allegedly done? The claimants allege Google has:
- Been illegally taking digital content created and shared by millions of Americans.
- Been using this private property to train its AI technology, including its chatbot, Bard.
- Stolen “virtually the entirety of our digital footprint”, including “creative and copywritten works” to develop its catalog of AI products.
The eight plaintiffs have accused Google of taking a variety of content they shared on social media without permission, ranging from photos on dating websites to playlists saved on Spotify to videos uploaded onto TikTok.
One of the claimants, who is described as a best-selling author from Texas, more specifically accused Google of copying a book they wrote in its entirety to train Bard.
Who is suing Google? There are eight plaintiffs who remain anonymous and are known only by their initials.
The lawsuit was filed by Clarkson Law Firm against Google, its parent company Alphabet as well as Google’s AI subsidiary DeepMind. If Clarkson Law Firm sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same company that filed a similar lawsuit against OpenAI last month.
What do the claimants want? The plaintiffs want Google to give its users the option to opt out of its “illicit data collection”. They are also asking the search engine to delete its existing catalog of data – otherwise, they say Google should pay the owners of that content “fair compensation.”
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What have the claimants said? Ryan Clarkson, managing partner of the Clarkson Law Firm, issued a statement:
- “Google harvested this data in secret for years, without providing notice to anyone, much less with anyone’s consent.
- “Google does not own the internet, it does not own our creative works, it does not own our expressions of our personhood, pictures of our families and children, or anything else simply because we share it online.”
Tim Giordano, an attorney working on behalf of the plaintiffs at Clarkson Law Firm, told CNN:
- “Google needs to understand that ‘publicly available’ has never meant free to use for any purpose.
- “Our personal information and our data is our property, and it’s valuable, and nobody has the right to just take it and use it for any purpose.”
What has Google said? Google has denied the claims and described the lawsuit as “baseless.” In a statement, Halimah DeLaine Prado, Google’s general counsel, said:
- “We’ve been clear for years that we use data from public sources — like information published to the open web and public datasets — to train the AI models behind services like Google Translate, responsibly and in line with our AI Principles.”
- “American law supports using public information to create new beneficial uses, and we look forward to refuting these baseless claims.”