UK watchdog warns companies over AI use and privacy

FILE PHOTO: AI (Artificial Intelligence) letters are placed on computer motherboard in this illustration taken, June 23, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration//File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's data protection watchdog warned companies to consider people's privacy rights whenever they use artificial intelligence (AI), or face not just fines but losing the public's trust in the technology.

The country's Information Commissioner, John Edwards, said at a speech on Wednesday that companies must protect their customer's personal information in all circumstances when they are using AI.

"You cannot expect to utilise AI in your products or services without considering privacy, data protection and how you will safeguard people’s rights," Edwards said.

"Our message to those organisations is clear – non-compliance with data protection will not be profitable," he said, adding that fines would be imposed commensurate with any ill-gotten gains received through non-compliance with the rules.

Risks around rapidly-developing AI have been an increasingly high priority for policymakers across the globe since Microsoft-backed Open AI released ChatGPT to the public last year.

Britain hosted the world's first artificial intelligence safety summit in November, and while there was broad consensus over the need to regulate AI, a global plan for overseeing the technology is still a long way off.

Edwards warned firms using AI to tread carefully in their use of the technology or they would alienate the public.

"If people don’t trust AI, then they’re less likely to use it, resulting in reduced benefits and less growth or innovation in society as a whole," he said.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Michael Holden)

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