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‘Don’t be blind to privacy risks’ of generative AI, warns data watchdog

AI privacy risks

The UK data regulator will call on businesses to address the privacy risks of generative AI before incorporating the technology and understand how models are using personal information.

Research cited by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) suggests that the generative AI sector could become a £1trn market within a decade and the regulator believes it could bring huge benefits to business and society.

Despite this, the data watchdog has significant concern over the risks AI poses to privacy over the way it collects huge volumes of data from public sources.

“Businesses are right to see the opportunity that generative AI offers, whether to create better services for customers or to cut the costs of their services. But they must not be blind to the privacy risks,” Stephen Almond, executive director of regulatory risk at the ICO is expected to say at today’s Politico Global Tech Day.

“Spend time at the outset to understand how AI is using personal information, mitigate any risks you become aware of, and then roll out your AI approach with confidence that it won’t upset customers or regulators.”

Almond wants the ICO to ensure companies have presented adequate privacy protection measures to the regulator before embarking on generative AI ventures.

“Businesses need to show us how they’ve addressed the risks that occur in their context – even if the underlying technology is the same,” Almond will say.

“An AI-backed chat function helping customers at a cinema raises different questions compared with one for a sexual health clinic, for instance.”

The ICO recently published “eight questions that developers and users need to ask” when it comes to generative AI. These included considering data protection, lawful bias and mitigating security risks.

Yesterday, the science and tech department announced a £54m funding package for UK universities to conduct research on responsible AI.

AI regulation has been a key topic for both sides of the political spectrum at London Tech Week.

On Monday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he wants to make the UK the “geographical home of global AI safety regulation” amid warnings that the technology could pose a risk to humanity alongside pandemics and nuclear war.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer said the UK must “fast forward” on AI regulation and ensure everyone benefits from the latest technological advancements.