GDPR and AI – help or hinderance?

  • techUK techUK
    Thursday24May 2018

    techUK Head of Cloud, Data Analytics and AI Sue Daley discusses how compatible GDPR is with AI technologies.

At techUK, we are discussing the steps that need to be taken to ensure the UK can realise the full economic and social power of AI. With AI estimated to be worth an additional £232 billion to the UK economy, it is important that the right environment is created that supports the development, adoption and use of increasingly automated, intelligent, data driven AI systems and technologies. A key question I am often asked is whether the introduction of the GDPR will in fact help or hinder the growth of the UK’s AI industry and adoption of AI technologies.

As GDPR has not even come into effect yet it is still not clear what impact it will have on the future development of AI technologies. However, what is clear now is that GDPR provides the legal and regulatory framework and foundations on which innovative, intelligent, increasingly autonomous AI technologies will be developed, deployed and applied. In fact, the review of the current European data protection legislation was conducted to ensure that Europe’s data protection legal framework remains up to date with the development of advanced, digital data driven technologies such as machine learning. The inclusion of Article 22 provides individuals with a right not to be subjected to automated decision making in particular circumstances. In this example, the GDPR has been developed with machine learning and AI technologies in mind. It is also an example of how the GDPR will support the development of AI by providing data subjects with the ability to make decisions about how their data is being used as AI technologies evolve. This is key to building greater trust and confidence in the use of AI across both the public and private sectors.

Another way the GDPR will support the development of AI is through the introduction of a right to data portability. Data is vital to the ability of AI systems to function, learn and develop. The capability for individuals to gain access to and share data with organisations that can then apply AI to unlock hidden insights and value from the data will enable AI systems to learn and evolve more quickly due to a greater availability of datasets.

Overall, GDPR will provide companies looking to develop and deploy AI systems with a clear legal framework to address data protection issues and concerns that may be raised by AI. However, as AI continues to develop many of the questions and concerns that could be raised will go beyond data protection and privacy. It is not yet clear whether the GDPR will be able to address the ethical questions and concerns being raised by the increased use of AI.

The development and deployment of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence technologies is leading to a much broader ethical discussion about how data-driven decisions are being made by autonomous, intelligent machines and whether these decisions are fair, ethical and unbiased. Clearly, the starting point for these discussions must always be GDPR. However, moving forward we may need to consider whether there could be gaps in the legal framework that need to be addressed. A key question to be discussed is whether the GDPR provides a framework business need to embed ethical decision-making into normal business practices or whether something more is needed to help companies ask, discuss and consider the right ethical questions as well as think and act ethically every day. This is a key issue that techUK will be exploring at a panel of industry leaders at the upcoming Cogx18 “Festival of all things AI” conference on the 11th June.

With the technology sector at the heart of driving the UK towards an increasingly AI-driven economy and society, it is industry that is being looked to for clarity and answers on ethical questions. techUK is working hard to bring together technology industry leaders and those involved in the data ethics debate to discuss the key questions being raised today and consider how the tech sector should be looking to respond. In December we will hold techUK’s second annual Digital Ethics Summit which will consider the progress that has been made over the last twelve months on this important issue and consider the progress made to build the capacity and capabilities needed to recognise, identify and address ethical issues and concerns. It will also consider whether the practical action that has been taken is enough, including the implementation of the GDPR, and discuss what more may be needed to ensure the ethical questions raised by the development and use of AI technologies can be addressed moving forward.

For more from techUK Data Protection Week, visit our landing page. 

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