Privacy regulators around the world are increasingly growing curious and skeptical about generative artificial intelligence deployments. U.S. Federal Trade Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya is not among those worried about a lack of regulation to address any privacy issues stemming from rampant use of the fast-growing technology.
From the keynote stage at the IAPP Global Privacy Summit 2023 in Washington, D.C., Bedoya told privacy professionals existing U.S. statutes at a sectoral level do in fact cover generative AI, while warning companies to strongly consider consumer interests and risks with pending deployments.
"The reality is AI is regulated (in the U.S.). Unfair and deceptive trade practices laws apply to AI," Bedoya said. "At the FTC, our core Section 5 authority extends to companies making, selling or using AI. If a company makes a deceptive claim using or about AI, that company can be held accountable."
Bedoya pointed to U.S. civil rights laws, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Fair Housing Act as just a few of the laws that he interprets as covering potential AI harms.
He also declared noncompliance in the area of generative AI currently applies to "a small subset of companies that are uninterested in compliance." Companies seeking to copy OpenAI's ChatGPT or arrive at different deployments raising consumer privacy concerns were called on to be proactive and transparent in weeding out potential risks.
"We have frequently brought actions against companies for the failure to take reasonable measures to prevent reasonably foreseeable risks. And the commission has historically not responded well to the idea that a company is not responsible for their product because that product is a black box that was unintelligible or difficult to test," Bedoya said. "I urge companies creating or using AI products for important eligibility decisions to closely consider the ability to explain your product and predict how the risks it will generate may be critical to your ability to comply with the law."
The callout on regulation came in the wake of regulator probes into ChatGPT popping up across the globe. Some of those regulator announcements came exclusively during GPS 2023.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada announced its investigation in the middle of another AI-focused GPS 2023 keynote. MLex reported from the conference that South Korea Personal Information Protection Commissioner Ko Hak-soo also opened a preliminary exploration into privacy issues stemming from the technology.
Bedoya also called attention to the growing issue of public misconception of generative AI, which is fueling confusion on regulation. He called out "breathless pieces" from the media generating a "very dry response" from technical experts.
"I worry that this debate obscures the point," Bedoya said. "Because law doesn't turn on how a trained expert reacts to a technology or how it's explained. It turns on how regular people see it, understand it and feel it."
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