Data watchdog raises concerns about generative AI

The UK’s data watchdog has warned those who use or create generative artificial intelligence about the dangers of the technology’s use of personal data. 

The Information Commissioner’s Office has outlined eight questions that should be asked around the use of generative AI and large language models such as the popular ChatGPT.

a computer screen with a bunch of words on it

In a post on the subject written by Stephen Almond, the Executive Director of Regulatory Risk at the ICO, he said: ‘It is important to take a step back and reflect on how personal data is being used by a technology that has made its own CEO “a bit scared”.’ 

He continued: ‘But while the technology is novel, the principles of data protection law remain the same and there is a clear roadmap for organisations to innovate in a way that respects people’s privacy.’ 

Questions raised by Mr Almond in regards to a companies use of the technology include what is the lawful basis for any processing of personal data, how can security risks be mitigated, and how will the company comply with individual rights requests? 

Concerns raised in the release echo those of a group of technology and academic experts who recently signed a letter, cited by Mr Almond, asking for the pausing of any giant AI experiments for six months whilst questions about their use are reviewed. 

The ICO also recently release an updated guidance on AI and data protection along with a risk toolkit to help companies identify possible data protection risks and take action to prevent them. 

Mr Almond said: ‘We are here to support organisations, enabling them to scale and maintain public trust. Our recently updated Guidance on AI and Data Protection provides a roadmap to data protection compliance for developers and users of generative AI.’ 

Other questions recommended by the ICO to guide the use of generative AI include: How will the company ensure transparency, has it prepared a Data Protection Impact Assessment, and will it use the technology to make solely automated decisions? 

You can read the full list and blog post here. 

The government has also recently published a white paper outlining guidance on the use of AI tech, saying that it wanted to avoid ‘heavy-handed legislation.’ 

Whilst many have raised concerns about the use of AI and its relation to data protection, the government has been pushing the industry as an area for Britain to excel with the tech forming a significant part of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology’s recently outlined framework.

Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi


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