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On March 29, 2023, the UK government published a white paper on artificial intelligence (“AI”) entitled “A pro-innovation approach to AI regulation.” The white paper sets out a new “flexible” approach to regulating artificial intelligence which is intended to build public trust in AI and make it easier for businesses to grow and create jobs. 

The UK government has the following three objectives that the approach is designed to achieve:

  1. Drive growth and prosperity by making responsible innovation easier and reducing regulatory uncertainty. The UK government believes this will encourage investment in AI and support its adoption throughout the economy.
  2. Increase public trust in AI by addressing risks and protecting our fundamental values.
  3. Strengthen the UK’s position as a global leader in AI. The UK government believes the UK can play a central role in the global conversation by shaping international governance and regulation to maximize opportunities and build trust in the technology, while mitigating potential cross-border risks and protecting the UK’s democratic values.

In its press release, the UK government notes it “will avoid heavy-handed legislation which could stifle innovation and [instead] take an adaptable approach to regulating AI.” It will do this by empowering existing regulators to prepare tailored, context-specific approaches that suit how AI is used in each specific sector. The white paper outlines the following five principles that regulators are to consider to facilitate the safe and innovative use of AI in their industries:

  • Safety, Security and Robustness: applications of AI should function in a secure, safe and robust way where risks are carefully managed;
  • Transparency and Explainability: organizations developing and deploying AI should be able to communicate when and how it is used and explain a system’s decision-making process in an appropriate level of detail that matches the risks posed by the use of the AI;
  • Fairness: AI should be used in a way which complies with the UK’s existing laws (e.g., the UK General Data Protection Regulation), and must not discriminate against individuals or create unfair commercial outcomes;
  • Accountability and Governance: measures are needed to ensure there is appropriate oversight of the way AI is being used and clear accountability for the outcomes; and
  • Contestability and Redress: people need to have clear routes to dispute harmful outcomes or decisions generated by AI.

Michelle Donelan MP, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, considers that this principles-based approach “will enable . . . [the UK] to adapt as needed while providing industry with the clarity needed to innovate.” Over the next 12 months, regulators are expected to issue practical guidance, as well as other tools and resources such as risk assessment templates, detailing how to implement the principles in their sectors. Legislation could also be introduced, specifically to ensure regulators consider the principles consistently.