AI Regulation in the UK: All Change Again for Digital Marketing?

Steve Grant

Managing Director

Steve is a founder of Figment, a multi award-winning UK-based SEO agency helping clients connect with new customers online to achieve healthy and sustainable business growth. Having advised over 200 business owners, Steve combines a strong commercial background with Figment’s innovative SearchRank 360™ approach and specialist team to deliver simple, cost-effective results. His ability to lead by example and inspire his team is a testament to his unwavering commitment to excellence. As a former Apple consultant and first-class Brunel graduate in Multimedia Technology and Design, Steve brings a unique blend of technical knowledge and marketing strategy to create tailored SEO campaigns that deliver results. Outside of work, Steve is a devoted family man, accomplished jazz pianist, and talented artist. With his friendly and professional approach, Figment's founder is not only an industry expert but also a true asset to any business seeking to make its mark in the online world.

AI regulation UK

It is safe to say that artificial intelligence has taken the world by storm. Almost everyone is talking about it, and millions of people are using it every day in one way or another, perhaps without even knowing it.

As with every new advance or the introduction of a new product, there is an undercurrent of concern as to how it may affect people and organisations. And it’s no different with AI, where calls for regulation have been made in response to a whole host of issues, from copyright infringement and privacy to discrimination and the disruption of business.

Of course, technological innovation shouldn’t necessarily be considered a bad thing, and there are many, many benefits to the use of artificial intelligence across a host of scenarios and industries.

We ourselves have been using it here at Figment to bring efficiency to everyday tasks, freeing up our specialists to focus on strategy and other more important jobs that will help us grow both ours and our clients’ businesses. But on a much more expansive and global level, it has also helped to make huge advances in medical science, as well as assisting in mitigating climate change and supporting national and global security.

And that is why when you ask the question, should AI be regulated, you’ll find all sorts of conflicting responses.

AI regulation, UK wide or worldwide is inevitable, and it will have its advantages. But it may also have its downsides. Whilst regulation will without doubt create a framework for consumer rights, information security and ethical processes, there is the risk that it could suffocate innovation and put the brakes on progress.

This is why it is going to be so important for world leaders and policymakers to strike a balance between innovation and regulation, so that AI can continue to develop and improve, whilst being used responsibly and safely.

AI regulation UK – the AI White Paper

On 29 March 2023, the UK government published its AI Regulation White Paper, ‘A Pro- Innovation Approach to AI Regulation’.

The paper suggests regulatory moves that are designed to support innovation, as well as to identify and address risks, with a view to establishing the UK as an ‘AI superpower’.

Rules for AI across the world are already being drafted. There are in fact in excess of 800 AI policy initiatives, from the governments of at least 60 countries.

The European Union AI Act, not yet law, proposes to regulate AI systems based on their potential to cause harm, classifying the technology into three risk categories, from low to unacceptable, with bans set to be imposed for tools that pose the most serious threats to society. Whilst the UK is no longer part of the EU and is working on its own AI regulation, the EU AI Act could still impact us and the tech industry generally.

AI regulation UK

The UK government agrees that we should be capitalising on the benefits of technologies such as AI, but that the risks of using them cannot be overlooked, and neither can the unease that is arising amongst the public. It is already known that some uses of AI can have negative effects on mental and physical health, that it can impact upon individuals’ privacy rights, and that it can even undermine human rights.

And this is why the government will be looking to build trust, by addressing concerns around artificial intelligence so that the adoption of AI can be accelerated, allowing the social and economic benefits of the technology to be maximised, whilst attracting investment and boosting the creation of high-skilled AI jobs.

The white paper says that regulators will have a year to issue guidance to organisations, with legislation to be introduced ‘as and when parliamentary time allows’. Which in theory means it could take months, if not years, for anything solid to come into force.

So in the meantime, as a London based SEO agency, we’re looking at the potential regulation may have to disrupt the way AI is being used in a digital marketing agency so that we can prepare ourselves for it as best we can.

How is AI used in digital marketing?

AI makes use of complex algorithms to identify patterns, analyse data and predict what’s likely to happen based on what’s gone on in the past.

It’s already proving to be of great value in the marketing industry, saving time and money and streamlining processes.

There are various ways marketers are drawing benefit from AI.

It can, for example, automatically generate adverts based on customer interests and demographics, as well as help improve the success of ad campaigns.

AI can also provide personalised marketing messages and recommendations based on past customer behaviours and preferences, helping to create that all-important bespoke customer experience. It is also able to segment audiences, grouping them based on characteristics, making it possible to identify which product or service benefits and features hold the most relevance for certain sectors.

Predictive analytics are perhaps one of the most powerful elements of artificial intelligence. AI is able to identify patterns and trends that can predict future behaviours, empowering marketers with the knowledge to make more informed decisions around how best to allocate their budgets and resources.

AI regulation UK

Anomaly detection is an AI feature that detects unusual patterns in data. So for example, it could be used to work out the reasons behind a sudden spike in clicks from a specific location or device, which may indicate fraudulent activity.

Here at Figment, we’ve been using AI to research content topics for our clients, cutting down task time from days to hours. It has also made it possible to quickly gather data, undertake market research and identify trends to better inform our SEO strategies.

These are just some of the ways in which artificial intelligence is being used in digital marketing. All of them will of course sound appealing to marketers, but at consumer level, people will be forgiven for harbouring concerns over how their privacy and personal data will potentially be impinged upon.

Hence the need for regulation, but regulation that, as we said, strikes a balance. Because there are few consumers who would not agree that irrelevant marketing can be incredibly frustrating. And as we’ve demonstrated, AI has the power to make it very relevant indeed.

Following AI best practice could help when AI regulation is introduced

We’ve always been an SEO agency that follows best practice in everything we do. And with AI, it’s no different.

We believe that by following best practice now, we can all prepare for the dawn of AI regulation UK and worldwide.

Our approach to AI is not to view it as a replacement for human creativity, insight and knowledge, but instead to use it alongside human perspective.

For example, if we are preparing an SEO campaign for a client, we may use AI tools to analyse data on target audiences and identify gaps and potential. But once we have this intelligence, we apply our own creativity, skills and knowhow to formulate a tailored strategy that will achieve the KPIs and ultimate objectives set out by the client.

As we revealed when we explored the pros and cons of ChatGPT, there are numerous limitations when using certain AI tools. Which is why fact checking any information provided should be a matter of course.

AI regulation UK

We also believe that it’s incredibly important to consider the impact of AI on the end user. For example, whilst AI is quite capable of automating certain customer or client interactions, you should be thinking about how the client or customer will feel about the lack of human intervention. Have you ever felt frustrated, for example, when you have a question, and you just get sent around in circles ‘talking’ to a chatbot?

Finally, we must never forget our responsibility – legal and moral – to data protection laws. As we are bound by the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, both of which have a considerable focus on large scale automated processing of personal data, we have a duty to follow the associated rules.

If we can tick that box now, by the time AI is regulated in the UK, we should be at least part of the way there.

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