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UK ICO Raises Data Protection Concerns, Issues Preliminary Notice To Snap

The Information Commissioner’s Office aims to protect privacy rights while outlining the risks of AI

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a preliminary enforcement notice to Snap Inc. and Snap Group Limited (Snap) regarding potential shortcomings in assessing the privacy risks associated with Snap’s generative AI chatbot ‘My AI’.

This preliminary notice outlines the actions that the Commissioner may demand, pending Snap’s response to the preliminary notice. If a final enforcement notice is issued, Snap may be instructed to cease data processing related to its chatbot. This would entail suspending the offering of the ‘My AI’ product to UK users until Snap conducts a satisfactory risk assessment.

In February this year, Snap introduced the ‘My AI’ feature for UK Snapchat+ subscribers and by April, it expanded its availability to the broader Snapchat user base in the UK. Snap’s chatbot utilises OpenAI‘s GPT technology and has amassed an impressive 21 million monthly active users in the UK as of May 2023. 

The ICO’s initial investigation revealed that Snap’s risk assessment conducted prior to the launch of ‘My Al’ did not thoroughly evaluate the data protection risks associated with the generative AI technology, especially concerning children. Given the innovative nature of the technology and the handling of personal data of 13 to 17-year-old children, a robust assessment of data protection risks is of utmost importance. 

Data protection risks with AI

John Edwards, UK information commissioner said in a post, “The provisional findings of our investigation suggest a worrying failure by Snap to adequately identify and assess the privacy risks to children and other users before launching ‘My Al’. We have been clear that organisations must consider the risks associated with Al, alongside the benefits. Today’s preliminary enforcement notice shows we will take action in order to protect UK consumers’ privacy rights.” 

The findings outlined in the notice from the Commissioner are preliminary, and it should be noted that no definitive conclusion can be drawn at this point regarding a breach of data protection law or the issuance of an enforcement notice. The ICO will thoroughly review any representations made by Snap before making a final decision.

The issuance of this preliminary enforcement notice comes after the ICO’s earlier reminder to companies involved in the development or utilisation of generative AI, emphasising the importance of considering data protection obligations from the initial stages. The ICO has guided generative AI developers and users regarding the critical considerations they should address and will maintain its oversight of products and services introduced to the market to ensure compliance.

Written By

Isa Muhammad is a writer and video game journalist covering many aspects of entertainment media including the film industry. He's steadily writing his way to the sharp end of journalism and enjoys staying informed. If he's not reading, playing video games or catching up on his favourite TV series, then he's probably writing about them.

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