Insights Information Commissioner publishes response to Government’s White Paper on Artificial Intelligence (AI)


In his response, the Information Commissioner notes the work that the ICO has already done on AI, including its Guidance on AI and Data Protection, its accompanying AI and Data Protection risk toolkit and its supplementary guidance on Explaining Decisions Made with AI. The Information Commissioner also recognises the importance of working with other UK regulators in this area.

Overall, the ICO supports the Government’s vision as regards AI and agrees that an approach to AI governance should be context-specific, risk- based, coherent, proportionate and adaptable.

In terms of the White Paper’s proposals as regards the role of regulators, the Commissioner notes the Government’s intention to create a central function to oversee the AI regulatory landscape. He welcomes the Government’s proposal to convene regulators to deliver activities such as joint regulatory guidance or a joint regulatory sandbox, but emphasises that it is the regulators themselves that must produce guidance and advice, in alignment with the laws that they oversee, independently of the Government. Accordingly, the Commissioner asks for clarification on the respective roles of the Government and regulators in issuing guidance and advice. The Commissioner also encourages the Government to work through regulators to deliver its ambitions where possible, particularly through the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF).

As for the White Paper’s proposed principles for the regulation of AI and the eventual introduction of a statutory duty for regulators to have due regard to these principles, the Commissioner notes that these principles map closely to data protection principles. The Commissioner says he would welcome close collaboration with the Government to ensure that the White Paper’s principles are interpreted in a way that is compatible with the data protection principles to avoid creating additional burdens on business. The Commissioner also sets out some more detailed comments on the principles, suggesting how consistency with data protection principles can be achieved.

In terms of the White Paper’s proposal that guidance be produced jointly by regulators, the Commissioner recommends that the Government prioritises research into the type of guidance a wide range of AI developers would value before proceeding.

The Commissioner makes the same comment in relation to the establishment of a joint regulatory sandbox. Based on the ICO’s experience in operating its Regulatory Sandbox, Innovation Advice and Innovation Hub, the Commissioner makes various recommendations on the design of a sandbox, including that the scope should be extended to include all digital innovation, not just AI innovation, and that the sandbox should be designed to provide timely advice that aligns with AI development lifecycles. The Commissioner also recommends that the Government works closely with the DRCF to develop its ideas further.

Finally, in terms of the cost implications of the proposals, the Commissioner observes that the intention of providing greater clarity to businesses on how AI regulation applies in their sector or to their use case (which he welcomes) that this will incur additional costs to regulators, such as the ICO. The Commission says that he would welcome further discussions with the Government on the funding required to enable the proposals to succeed. To read the Commissioner’s response in full, click here.