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UK launches official investigation into the use of AI


The UK Competition and Markets Authority has launched a major investigation into the development and use of AI foundation models.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is opening an initial review of competition and consumer protection considerations in the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI) foundation models.

Foundation models, which include large language models and generative AI that have emerged over the past five years, have the potential to transform much of what people and businesses do.

To ensure that innovation in AI continues in a way that benefits consumers, businesses and the UK economy, the government has asked regulators, including the CMA, to think about how the innovative development and deployment of AI can be supported against five overarching principles: safety, security and robustness; appropriate transparency and explainability; fairness; accountability and governance; and contestability and redress.

In line with government’s AI white paper and the CMA’s role to support open, competitive markets, the review seeks to understand how foundation models are developing and produce an assessment of the conditions and principles that will best guide the development of foundation models and their use in the future.

This initial review will: examine how the competitive markets for foundation models and their use could evolve; explore what opportunities and risks these scenarios could bring for competition and consumer protection; and produce guiding principles to support competition and protect consumers as AI foundation models develop.

The development of AI touches upon a range of important issues, including safety, security, copyright, privacy, and human rights, as well as the ways markets work. Many of these issues are being considered by government or other regulators, so this initial review will focus on the questions the CMA is best placed to address − what are the likely implications of the development of AI foundation models for competition and consumer protection?

 “AI has burst into the public consciousness over the past few months but has been on our radar for some time,” Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA, said. “It’s a technology developing at speed and has the potential to transform the way businesses compete as well as drive substantial economic growth.

“It’s crucial that the potential benefits of this transformative technology are readily accessible to UK businesses and consumers while people remain protected from issues like false or misleading information. Our goal is to help this new, rapidly scaling technology develop in ways that ensure open, competitive markets and effective consumer protection.”

Gareth Mills, partner at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, said. “The issue of consumer protection is clearly at the forefront of the CMA’s announcement and reflects a regulatory concern that rapidly developing AI technology could represent a risk for consumers given potential misleading information.

“This announcement recognises that existing legal frameworks affecting intellectual property, privacy, data protection and even human rights have the potential to be disrupted by how AI technology develops over time.

“With a short turnaround for comments from stakeholders being set to early June, it is clear that the CMA does not intend to let the moss grow under its feet before issuing its views and setting out the rules for this transformative technology.”

The CMA is seeking views and evidence from stakeholders and welcomes submissions by 2 June 2023. The CMA encourages interested parties to respond and be proactive in identifying relevant evidence. Following evidence gathering and analysis, the CMA will publish a report which sets out its findings in September 2023.

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