ICO consultation: How Prolific is helping to shape AI and data protection laws

George Denison
|March 26, 2024

AI is evolving at incredible speed, so we must be proactive in crafting its ethical and legal frameworks. 

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has answered this call by launching a consultation series on data protection law and generative AI. 

This series poses some profound questions. Where do we acquire training data for AI? What are the bounds of personal data rights? How do we develop and deploy AI models within ethical and legal frameworks?  

Prolific is playing a critical role in the AI data supply chain. We have a responsibility to contribute to these conversations. This isn’t just an obligation, but also an opportunity to ensure that the AI ecosystem flourishes while safeguarding the people who power it. 

What is the ICO consultation series?

In the coming months, the ICO will share a series of chapters that outline its thoughts on how we interpret the UK GDPR and Part 2 of the DPA 2018 in the context of evolving AI models.

It has invited stakeholders interested in generative AI to respond to these chapters. These include AI model developers, legal advisors, consultants working in this area, and other public bodies.

The ICO will use these responses to help inform its position and update its guidance on AI and other products.

Our response to the ICO

The ICO's consultation series is an important opportunity to shape the ground rules for AI's responsible and ethical deployment. 

The first chapter explores ‘The lawful basis for web scraping to train generative AI models.’ This topic has profound implications for AI development and society at large.

We recognise our role as facilitators and the responsibility this entails. Prolific connects developers with taskers who provide rich, diverse data for fine-tuning AI.

In response to the ICO's inquiry, we gathered our expertise and submitted a comprehensive analysis. Our thinking resonates with the ICO's goal for a balanced AI landscape that respects individual rights. 

Here are some of the key highlights from our response: 

  • Scraping could be one tool for collecting data, but it shouldn’t be the only tool.
  • We embrace an approach that weaves ethics, fairness, and safety into the fabric of AI model development.
  • The collection of AI training data should be driven by informed consent rather than solely relying on public data under the pretext of fair use. 
  • Human-generated data is unique and plays an indispensable role in AI development.
  • Data scraping puts AI model developers at risk in terms of legal compliance and ethical conduct.
  • Due to the vast amounts of data required to train models, data scraping will likely remain as a practice. But it needs clear guardrails to ensure public safety.

Why we’re contributing our expertise 

We know that the choices we make now will have a far-reaching impact, or worse, could have serious long-term consequences.

By taking part in shaping this discourse, we mark our dedication to the larger AI community we serve. We believe that AI development shouldn’t just be efficient and innovative. It should also be governed by robust ethical standards that protect the rights of all stakeholders involved.

The ICO consultation series is just beginning. With each chapter, we move closer to a comprehensive guideline on responsible AI practices. The next chapter, on 'Purpose Limitation in the Generative AI Lifecycle', will explore critical considerations about how we use AI and manage broader datasets.

Our response to this next chapter is already underway. This topic requires nuance and intricacy, so we’re committed to shaping an analysis that reflects our dedication to the ethical deployment of AI models

You can read our full response to the ICO's first chapter here

Keep an eye out for further updates as we continue to share insights into how we’re shaping the AI landscape. The path ahead is intricate, but by working together and pooling our expertise, we can pave the way for AI that is both groundbreaking and responsible.