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Bard Debuts in Europe and Brazil Amid Privacy Concerns and Intensifying Competition

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Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, is spreading its wings in the AI landscape by launching its AI chatbot, Bard, in Europe and Brazil. This expansion signifies Bard's most significant growth since its introduction in the UK and the US in March, escalating the competition with Microsoft's own AI chatbot, ChatGPT.

Generative AI models like Bard and ChatGPT, capable of emulating human-like responses to questions, are increasingly becoming common players in the technological market. However, Bard's launch in the EU hit a temporary snag when the bloc's primary data regulator, the Irish Data Protection Commission, cited privacy issues. The commission highlighted that Google hadn't adequately illustrated how Bard would protect European users' privacy, delaying the chatbot's EU rollout.

Google assures that it has since engaged with the concerned watchdogs, addressing issues related to transparency, control, and choice. Amar Subramanya, Bard's engineering vice president, clarified that users would have the option to opt out of data collection. While declining to comment on the possible development of a Bard app, Subramanya stated, “Bard is an experiment. We want to be bold and responsible.”

Innovation and Controversy Amid Rising AI Investment

Google has further enhanced Bard by introducing new global features. Notable additions include the chatbot vocalizing responses and reacting to image-inclusive prompts. “You can collaborate with Bard in over 40 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, German, Hindi and Spanish,” announced Jack Krawczyk, Google's senior product director, in a blog post. Users can also tailor Bard's response style, pin or rename conversations, export code to more places, and incorporate images in prompts.

Simultaneously, the AI industry is experiencing a substantial surge in investment, with billions being funneled into these potentially lucrative technologies. Even start-ups like Mistral AI, barely a month old, managed to secure an £86m seed funding round for developing and training large language models. High-profile tech figure Elon Musk also unveiled a new AI start-up named xAI, pooling in a team of engineers with experience from OpenAI and Google.

But while these advancements have sparked excitement, they've also ignited controversy. Google is currently facing a class-action lawsuit in the US over alleged misuse of users' personal data to train Bard. The claimants argue that Google's unauthorized data scraping from websites violated their privacy and property rights. Amid such concerns and potential drawbacks, the trajectory of AI development and adoption will be intriguing to follow.

Alex McFarland is a tech writer who covers the latest developments in artificial intelligence. He has worked with AI startups and publications across the globe.