New plans for regulating the use of artificial intelligence in the UK will be published today which the government claims take a ‘less centralised’ approach than that in the European Union.

It comes as the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill is introduced to Parliament, intended to protect people’s privacy and personal data.

The proposed rules in the new AI paper consist of six core principles that regulators must apply, with flexibility to implement these in ways that best meet the use of AI in their sectors. These regulators include Ofcom, the Competition and Markets Authority, the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

They will be encouraged to consider lighter touch options which could include guidance and voluntary measures or creating sandboxes – such as a trial environment where businesses can check the safety and reliability of AI tech before introducing it to market.

The six principles are: ensure that AI is used safely; that it is technically secure and functions as designed; that it is appropriately transparent and explainable; consider fairness; identify a legal person to be responsible for AI; and clarify routes to redress or contestability.

“Instead of giving responsibility for AI governance to a central regulatory body, as the EU is doing through its AI Act, the government’s proposals will allow different regulators to take a tailored approach to the use of AI in a range of settings,” the government stated. 

“This better reflects the growing use of AI in a range of sectors. This approach will create proportionate and adaptable regulation so that  AI continues to be rapidly adopted in the UK to boost productivity and growth.”

The UK’s AI sector attracted $4.65 billion investment last year. Such technologies have unlocked benefits across the economy and the country, from tracking tumours in Glasgow and improving animal welfare on dairy farms in Belfast to speeding up property purchases in England. 

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“We want to make sure the UK has the right rules to empower businesses and protect people as AI and the use of data keeps changing the ways we live and work,” said Digital Minister Damian Collins.

“It is vital that our rules offer clarity to businesses, confidence to investors and boost public trust. Our flexible approach will help us shape the future of AI and cement our global position as a science and tech superpower.”

Industry experts, academics and civil society organisations focusing on the technology can share their views on putting this approach into practice through a call for evidence launching today.

Responses will be considered alongside further development of the framework in the forthcoming AI whitepaper which will explore how to put the principles into practice.

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Professor Dame Wendy Hall, acting chair of the AI Council, said: “We welcome these important early steps to establish a clear and coherent approach to regulating AI. This is critical to driving responsible innovation and supporting our AI ecosystem to thrive. 

“The AI Council looks forward to working with government on the next steps to develop the whitepaper.”