Anthropic’s turbulent start to 2024 continues, as the AI startup confirms a data breach just days after the Federal Trade Commission launched a sweeping inquiry into its business.
On January 22nd, Anthropic discovered that a contractor had inadvertently shared a file containing customer information with an outside party. While the startup described the data as “non-sensitive,” the file included a subset of customer names and account balances from 2023, according to sources.
In a statement, Anthropic said the incident stemmed from human error, not an issue with their AI systems. Affected customers have supposedly been notified and given guidance, a spokesperson assured VentureBeat. They emphasized the breach was unrelated to the wider FTC investigation, which they declined to comment on.
But the data leak comes at a precarious time, as regulators train their sights on Anthropic and the booming generative AI space.
The FTC is probing Anthropic’s massive $4 billion investment round from Amazon in September 2023. This deal, and similar pacts between tech titans Alphabet, Microsoft and OpenAI, raised eyebrows in the AI community. Now the Commission wants intimate details – the terms of agreements, strategic motivations, and real-world implications.
Specifically, regulators seek information on how these tech alliances impact key decisions around product releases, governance rights, and oversight of powerful AI systems. The inquiry exemplifies growing unease around the consolidation of power and influence in Big Tech’s hands, as smaller startups cash out.
For Anthropic, founded on ideals of safety and ethics by ex-OpenAI siblings Dario and Daniela Amodei, the leak and regulatory spotlight are an untimely one-two punch.
The data incident in particular confirms fears some enterprises have expressed about deploying third-party large language models with proprietary data. Anthropic’s flagship Claude was selectively offered to researchers pre-launch, with assurances it was developed responsibly.
But this rocky patch for the startup, valued at a towering $18 billion, raises difficult questions. The breach shows even human hands can present risks when handling sensitive customer information. And the FTC pressure highlights how massive AI investments from tech giants can spur antitrust issues.
For Anthropic’s ambitious founders, 2024 is proving a crucible. Restoring trust after the data leak, while demonstrating responsible AI development amid regulatory scrutiny, will determine if this promising startup can fulfill its lofty mission. The next strategic moves for Anthropic will send ripples far beyond, shaping the future AI landscape.