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Bing will now surface AI-generated buying guides

Bing’s AI-generated buying guide for the Surface Headphones 2
Image: Microsoft

Microsoft is bringing AI-generated buying guides to Bing, the company announced on Thursday. Now when you search for things like “college supplies,” Bing will surface AI-made guides that offer comparisons between products in the same categories, such as headphones or laptops.

The link to Bing’s buying guide will appear at the very top of the search engine’s results. Clicking into the guide reveals an AI-generated summary about whatever you’re looking for, along with a list of products relevant to your search. Hit the Compare button, and you’ll see a chart that pulls specs from the product manufacturers’ websites and compares them side by side. Microsoft notes that you can access buying guides both through Bing chat and in the Edge sidebar.

Image: Microsoft

To be honest, I don’t think I fully trust an AI enough to find and surface the absolute best products on the web, especially when there are human reviewers (like some of us at The Verge, wink wink) to do the legwork for me. Even still, the product comparison chart does seem like a handy way to see how different items stack up, assuming it pulls in the right data. This feature is available in Bing in the US now and is rolling out Edge worldwide.

Microsoft is also rolling out review summaries in its Bing chatbot. When you ask Bing what people are saying about a product, the tool will summarize the reviews it gleans from retailers like Amazon and Walmart. I’m curious to try out this feature for myself and maybe even compare them to a product’s actual reviews just to see which details it pulls out.

Image: Microsoft

In the example included by Microsoft, Bing says the “Surface Headphones 2 are a great choice for travelers, students, and anyone who wants the best ANC headphones. They have a sleek design, excellent sound quality, and a long battery life. They also support hands-free Alexa and Google Assistant, and have a clear mic system for calls.”

The mention of “long battery life” doesn’t seem to track with many of the customer reviews on Amazon, however. One of the top reviews (and several others) cites not experiencing the full 20 hours of battery life that’s advertised, so you might want to do some of your own research if you decide to use this tool. Review summaries are rolling out worldwide.

Aside from that, Microsoft is adding a price match feature to Edge that monitors the price of an item after you’ve purchased it. If that item drops in price, Edge will prompt you to contact the retailer you purchased it from to request a refund. But you don’t have to do any of the writing yourself; Bing will draft a message that you can send to the retailer.

With Microsoft continuing to stuff more AI tools and shopping features into Edge, the browser is starting to feel… a bit bloated. What was once advertised as a nimble alternative to Chrome is quickly filling out with tools that not all users want or need. While generative AI is an exciting advancement, it might be more helpful to consolidate these tools inside of an extension instead of forcing them into everyone’s browsing experience.

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FTC investigating OpenAI on ChatGPT data collection and publication of false information

OpenAI CEO Samuel Altman Testifies To Senate Committee On Rules For Artificial Intelligence
Photo by Win McNamee / Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating ChatGPT creator OpenAI over possible consumer harm through its data collection and the publication of false information.

First reported by The Washington Post, the FTC sent a 20-page letter to the company this week. The letter requests documents related to developing and training its large language models, as well as data security.

The FTC wants to get detailed information on how OpenAI vets information used in training for its models and how it prevents false claims from being shown to ChatGPT users. It also wants to learn more about how APIs connect to its systems and how data is protected when accessed by third parties.

The FTC declined to comment. OpenAI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

This is the first major US investigation into OpenAI, which burst into the public consciousness over the past year with the release of ChatGPT. The popularity of ChatGPT and the large language models that power it kicked off an AI arms race prompting competitors like Google and Meta to release their own models.

The FTC has signaled increased regulatory oversight of AI before. In 2021, the agency warned companies against using biased algorithms. Industry watchdog Center for AI and Digital Policy also called on the FTC to stop OpenAI from launching new GPT models in March.

Large language models can put out factually inaccurate information. OpenAI warns ChatGPT users that it can occasionally generate incorrect facts, and Google’s chatbot Bard’s first public demo did not inspire confidence in its accuracy. And based on personal experience, both have spit out incredibly flattering, though completely invented, facts about myself. Other people have gotten in trouble for using ChatGPT. A lawyer was sanctioned for submitting fake cases created by ChatGPT, and a Georgia radio host sued the company for results that claimed he was accused of embezzlement.

US lawmakers showed great interest in AI, both in understanding the technology and possibly looking into enacting regulations around it. The Biden administration released a plan to provide a responsible framework for AI development, including a $140 million investment to launch research centers. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch also discussed chatbots’ potential legal liability earlier this year.

It is in this environment that AI leaders like OpenAI CEO Sam Altman have made the rounds in Washington. Altman lobbied Congress to create regulations around AI.

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OpenAI will use Associated Press news stories to train its models

An illustration of a cartoon brain with a computer chip imposed on top.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

OpenAI will train its AI models on The Associated Press’ news stories for the next two years, thanks to an agreement first reported by Axios. The deal between the two companies will give OpenAI access to some of the content in AP’s archive as far back as 1985.

As part of the agreement, AP will gain access to OpenAI’s “technology and product expertise,” although it’s not clear exactly what that entails. AP has long been exploring AI features and began generating reports about company earnings in 2014. It later leveraged the technology to automate stories about Minor League Baseball and college sports.

AP joins OpenAI’s growing list of partners. On Tuesday, the AI company announced a six-year deal with Shutterstock that will let OpenAI license images, videos, music, and metadata to train its text-to-image model, DALL-E. BuzzFeed also says it will use AI tools provided by OpenAI to “enhance” and “personalize” its content. OpenAI is also working with Microsoft on a number of AI-powered products as part of Microsoft’s partnership and “‘multibillion dollar investment” into the company.

“The AP continues to be an industry leader in the use of AI; their feedback — along with access to their high-quality, factual text archive — will help to improve the capabilities and usefulness of OpenAI’s systems,” Brad Lightcap, OpenAI’s chief operating officer, says in a statement.

Earlier this year, AP announced AI-powered projects that will publish Spanish-language news alerts and document public safety incidents in a Minnesota newspaper. The outlet also launched an AI search tool that’s supposed to make it easier for news partners to find photos and videos in its library based on “descriptive language.”

AP’s partnership with OpenAI seems like a natural next step, but there are still a lot of crucial details missing about how the outlet will use the technology. AP makes it clear it “does not use it in its news stories.”

Did you miss our previous article…

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Congress is trying to stop discriminatory algorithms again

A person with their hand hovering over the Like button on Facebook.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

US policymakers hope to require online platforms to disclose information about their algorithms and allow the government to intervene if these are found to discriminate based on criteria like race or gender.

Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) reintroduced the Algorithmic Justice and Online Platform Transparency Act, which aims to ban the use of discriminatory or “harmful” automated decision-making. It would also establish safety standards, require platforms to provide a plain language explanation of algorithms used by websites, publish annual reports on content moderation practices, and create a governmental task force to investigate discriminatory algorithmic processes.

The bill applies to “online platforms” or any commercial, public-facing website or app that “provides a community forum for user-generated content.” This can include social media sites, content aggregation services, or media and file-sharing sites.

Markey and Matsui introduced a previous version of the bill in 2021. It moved to the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce but died in committee.

Data-based decision-making, including social media recommendation algorithms or machine learning systems, often lives in proverbial black boxes. This opacity sometimes exists because of intellectual property concerns or a system’s complexity.

But lawmakers and regulators worry this could obscure biased decision-making with a huge impact on people’s lives, well beyond the reach of the online platforms the bill covers. Insurance companies, including those working with Medicaid patients, already use algorithms to grant or deny patient coverage. Agencies such as the FTC signaled in 2021 that they may pursue legal action against biased algorithms.

Calls to make more transparent algorithms have grown over the years. After several scandals in 2018 — which included the Cambridge Analytica debacle — AI research group AI Now found governments and companies don’t have a way to punish organizations that produce discriminatory systems. In a rare move, Facebook and Instagram announced the formation of a group to study potential racial bias in its algorithms.

“Congress must hold Big Tech accountable for its black-box algorithms that perpetuate discrimination, inequality, and racism in our society – all to make a quick buck,” Markey said in a statement.

Most proposed regulations around AI and algorithms include a push to create more transparency. The European Union’s proposed AI Act, in its final stages of negotiation, also noted the importance of transparency and accountability.

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