AI regulation in the UK leaps forward with white paper consultation

  • The UK published an initial white paper on AI regulation in March last year
  • This was followed by a long consultation period, collecting evidence from stakeholders
  • The consultation paper has been published, providing a pathway towards regulating AI
AI Safety Summit

The UK Government has unveiled its response to consultations on AI innovation and regulation. 

In March 2023, the UK government published its AI regulation white paper proposing what it termed a “pro-innovation regulatory framework for AI.”

It then sought to collect evidence from a 12-week consultation involving discussions with numerous international stakeholders, including companies like OpenAI

The initial white paper centered around:

  • Safety, security, and robustness.
  • Appropriate transparency and explainability.
  • Fairness.
  • Accountability and governance.
  • Contestability and redress

Speaking of this recent consultation outcome to the white paper, Michelle Donelan MP, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology, stated, “The rapid improvements in AI capabilities represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the British people to revolutionize our public services and deliver real, tangible, long-term results for our country.” 

The UK government is pursuing a context-based regulatory approach, avoiding one-size-fits-all rules and instead tailoring regulations to specific AI applications and contexts. 

This approach aims to be agile and durable over time, adaptable to AI technologies as they grow. That contrasts with the EU’s AI Act, which proposes a more fixed risk-based framework for regulating AI.

Regulatory bodies in the UK have already begun implementing the white paper’s principles. For instance, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) reviewed foundation models to assess their impact on competition and consumer protection, while the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) updated its guidance to include fairness in data protection laws applied to AI systems.

Other key highlights from the enormous document include:

  • The UK government is committed to harnessing AI’s growth potential without compromising workers’ employment rights and protections.
  • The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) is expected to issue updated guidance on the use of AI in HR and recruitment in Spring 2024.
  • An investment of £290 million has been made since 2018 towards AI skills and talent initiatives across the UK.
  • The government is developing a full skills framework for AI, which will be published in Spring 2024, to address the evolving needs of the AI-enabled labor market.
  • The impact of AI on jobs and sectors is under review. The focus is on developing AI-related skills through national qualifications and training.
  • The government is facilitating AI innovation and protecting intellectual property, focusing on creative industries and media sectors.
  • Concerns about copyright protections in the age of generative AI are being addressed through engagements between DSIT, DCMS ministers, and stakeholders in AI and creative sectors.
  • Measures are being taken to ensure the trust and safety of AI-generated content online, including developing practices to protect trust in online information.

The UK was also keen to remind others that it hosted the world’s first AI Safety Summit, which culminated in the Bletchley Declaration

This landmark initiative brought together a broad coalition of stakeholders, including industry leaders, academia, and civil society, alongside representatives from 28 leading AI nations and the EU. It was generally seen as a diplomatic success, as China attended and joined multilateral agreements. 

Conversely, the geopolitical tone at the recent World Economic Forum was a little frostier between the US and China.

Donelan further highlighted the UK’s role in assessing AI capabilities and risks, noting, “We were the first government in the world to formally publish our assessment of the capabilities and risks presented by advanced AI.” 

With over £100 million investment to support AI innovation and regulation, the UK is laying the groundwork for a future where AI development is both innovative and secure. 

This includes creating a central function to ensure government sectors are coherent and launching the AI and Digital Hub, a pilot advisory service designed to support the public sector with expert guidance.

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