Spotlight on…Artificial Intelligence

Spotlight on…Artificial Intelligence

25 Jan 2024

Essex County Council

News & updates from Essex County Council

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This informal CPD article, ‘Spotlight on…Artificial Intelligence’, was provided by Essex County Council, the local authority for Essex, who have a vision for Essex to be a county where individuals, families and communities can thrive and prosper.

In the world of information governance one of the biggest topics of discussion over the past year has been artificial intelligence (AI). AI was founded as an academic discipline in the mid-1950s, and is now found in myriad everyday applications, including virtual assistants, search engines, navigation apps and online banking. Appreciating the huge benefits this technology can bring whilst recognising the challenges it presents.

It is clear that the benefits that AI can bring include:

  • Decision making – for example algorithms can be used to produce specific content on websites and social media platforms by looking at an individual’s data, choices or behaviours and comparing them with thousands of other similar individuals
  • Automation – this is the biggest game changer for business, releasing human input through automation means they can make better use of employee’s skills and time
  • Health – for example tracking through apps can reduce expensive and time-consuming hospital visits as well as insight gathered for community health projects
  • Improved customer experience – for example chatbots and voice assistants such as Alexa and Siri
  • Research – for example, the ability to analyse huge amounts of data in a short time.

So, what are the concerns about its use? These fall into the three broad categories of compliance, ethical considerations and potential risks.

Generative AI is different to other types of AI and poses particular challenges. This type of AI uses large language models (LLMs) and has the potential for misuse. LLMs can create bias and present hallucinations, where seemingly accurate outputs are in fact inaccurate (mistakes in the generated text that are semantically or syntactically incorrect). It is worth noting that if an LLM is unsure it will guess rather than seek further clarification. Generative AI is only as good as the data it is trained on.

If considering the use of generative AI which is likely to rely on personal data within LLMs you must fully comply with data protection law including the need to identify a lawful basis for the processing and consider the reasonable expectations of the data subjects. Think about how you will let individuals know about the use of AI. How will you protect against bias and hallucinations? Will your use place any legal effects on an individual?

What help is available to help you use these new technologies safely?

  • The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) provide a range of guidance1 on the use of AI, including an AI and data protection risk toolkit, and a Data analytics toolkit.
  • Last month the Commissioner attended the techUK’s Digital Ethics Summit 2023 and stated “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. This needs addressing. 2024 cannot be the year that consumers lose trust in AI”.
  • This month the ICO launched a consultation series2 on generative AI seeking views from a range of stakeholders, including developers and users of generative AI, legal advisors and consultants working in this area, civil society groups and other public bodies with an interest in generative AI.
  • The Government provide guidance3 to civil servants on the use of generative AI.
  • NHS England also provide guidance4 and resources for those using AI in the health sector

Given resent evolution of AI including generative AI, there is much in the pipeline in terms of regulation and guidance which should be monitored closely to ensure compliance. For example, the Artificial Intelligence (Regulation) Bill5 is currently on its second reading in the House of Lords.

There is no doubt that the use of AI can bring huge benefits, but we must ensure that we use it lawfully and ethically. As evolving technology, it is vital that any users keep themselves up to date on how to use AI safely to get best value.

We hope you found this article helpful. For more information from Essex County Council, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, you can go to the CPD Industry Hubs for more articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.








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Essex County Council

Essex County Council

For more information from Essex County Council, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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