AI and Data Privacy

The technological advancements in machine learning, deep learning and AI offer ground-breaking insights to help business of all sizes.  However, all of these mathematical approaches are underpinned by the need for data and that means taking data privacy seriously. 

It’s important to remember that data privacy is not just about protecting personal information (though that obviously forms an important part). It is also about showing your business’ integrity and developing a trusting relationship with your customers.  We’ve all read about data breaches and how that impacts on the reputation of a company (often with associated financial loss and legal consequences)  If you are starting to use machine / deep learning or AI which will be trained on the data you hold, it’s important you’re aware of your responsibilities. 

In the UK, data privacy is primarily governed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018.  These are the key regulations stipulate how businesses should collect, use, and protect personal data.  Crucially they give individuals rights over their data, including access to the data you hold about them, requesting rectification of the data, and the right to be forgotten (removed from your system). 

Understanding and navigating the legal landscape of data privacy can be daunting.  Fortunately, there is a wealth of online resources are available to help businesses and individuals: 

  • Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO):  The ICO is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights and their website offers comprehensive guidance on data protection. 
  • GOV.UK:  Has a wealth of information on data protection, including specific guidelines for certain areas e.g. schools 
  • Legal Advisors: If in any doubt, it is always worth consulting with a legal expert who specialises in data protection who can provide tailored advice for your business. 

So what should be the considerations when you start to integrate automated insights into your business whilst – our suggested checklist is: 

  1. Know the Law: Make sure you and your team understand the basics of GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018. 
  1. Data Minimisation: Only collect the data needed and that is justified for a specific purpose. 
  1. Transparency:  Clearly communicate to your customers/those who you collect data from how their data will be used, stored and how they can contact you with any questions 
  1. Data Security:  Implement strong security measures to protect the data you hold. 
  1. Vendor Assessment:  Ensure any third-party vendors comply with data privacy laws. 
  1. Training:  Regularly train your staff on data protection best practices and ensure that the training is kept up to date e.g. annual refreshers, changes in key legislation or changes in the types of data you process 
  1. Data Subject Rights:  Establish a clear, documented process for individuals to exercise their data rights such as rectification or removal 
  1. Data Protection Officer:  Appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO) if required by law or equally importantly as a matter of best practice. 
  1. Data Sharing Agreements:  Have a clear process for data sharing, ensure this is meticulously followed and use it every time data is shared between you and another company 
  1. Regular Audits:  Conduct internal audits to ensure ongoing compliance with data protection laws. 
  1. Incident Response Plan:  Have a documented plan in place for data breaches and other privacy-related incidents so that if the worst happens, you and your team know what to so. 

By prioritising data privacy your business can not only avoid the pitfalls of non-compliance but also reinforce customer trust.  As the use of technology and AI continues to evolve, being vigilant about data privacy isn’t just a legal obligation; it’s a cornerstone of a sustainable and ethical business strategy.

By Dr Sophie Carr

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