Senator wonders whether department officials are using ChatGPT to answer parliamentary questions

Senator Malcolm Byrne

Gabija Gataveckaite

A Fianna Fáil senator has questioned whether officials at the Department of the Environment are using ChatGPT in writing responses to questions about illegal dumping.

Senator Malcolm Byrne told the Seanad he asked the Department questions about when county councils will be able to use CCTV to clamp down on illegal dumping.

He read a response from the Department last October and said “exact same answer” was provided to him again today.

Senator Byrne wondered if officials within the department asked the free online AI service, which allows the user to put in a request and then generates an answer using artificial intelligence, were using this service when giving out answers.

“I have to question whether ChatGPT is being used now in the department in providing answers. Somebody in the Department of Environment just said, ‘Give me an answer to Malcolm Byrne asking questions again about the deployment of CCTV’,” he told the Seanad.

The use of CCTV to catch illegal dumping for local authorities was enacted last year in the Circular Economy Bill.

Under the bill, local authorities would be able to use CCTV in illegal dumping blackspots to catch people who are throwing away their rubbish.

He put in queries asking when a commencement order would be enacted to give local authorities permission to use CCTV.

“It is not good enough. The issue is not taken seriously. And clearly, it is the case and I am convinced ChatGPT is being used for some of these replies.

“The department is not taking the issue of illegal dumping seriously.”

A spokesperson for the department said officials are not using Chat GPT.

The spokesperson rejected the suggestion by Senator Byrne that the issue is “not taken seriously”.

“ The position has been outlined to the Senator previously.

"This is a complex legal area involving matters that include privacy and data protection.

"To address these concerns the Circular Economy and Miscellaneous Provisions Act – enacted in July of last year – sets out a number of conditions that must be complied with, prior to the introduction and use of CCTV and other mobile recording devices by local authorities.”