AI terms often have varying technical definitions. But how are AI terms used in laws, regulations, regulatory guidance and policy in the EU and the UK?

The Burges Salmon AI Law, Regulation and Policy Glossary is a selection of key AI terms and their definitions (with links to sources), identifying where they are found in anticipated UK and EU laws and/or regulations, regulatory guidance and UK AI policy.  Download a copy using the link below.

This glossary is a useful guide to private companies, public organisations, regulators and legislators – in particular those working in the areas of Financial Services, Healthcare and Transport Technology – who:

  • want a reference guide for AI terms;
  • are interested in how and where terms relevant to AI are being used in law, regulation and policy; and/or
  • are preparing to comply with the various current and future regulations

that will affect how they build, buy and govern AI systems.

You may also be interested in our one page AI regulation horizon scanning visual, covering the US, UK and EU.

What can we learn from this?

The glossary draws out four key themes about the application of AI terms in law, regulation and policy:

  • We may not be talking the same language. Shared understanding of terms is essential when determining how and when laws and regulations apply. But whilst certain terms may be commonly used in industry they can lack or vary in legal definition and risk differing interpretations and application. There are various geographical and industry standards setting organisations working towards common AI terminologies. Those are useful and have been how shared terminology has been developed previously in other industries. However, they may vary between themselves and may not be how legislators, regulators or courts apply terms in practice.

  • That is, partly, because context matters. Definitions vary depending on the context in which they are used e.g. the type of legislation or guidance, the industry to which they relate, and the geography in which they apply. For example, the types of ‘damage’ which regulations try to protect against can vary; damage potentially caused by automated vehicles (property) is different to the types of damage AI systems can cause which other laws are typically more concerned about (e.g. the EU’s focus on fundamental rights).

  • We are still at an early stage. There is still relatively limited application of AI terms in statute, case law and regulation. This may mean those applying AI terms in practice – whether industry, courts or regulators – have to turn to other sources to try to understand what a term does (or does not) mean. That will include industry and technical definitions (which are voluminous, varied, at differing levels of maturity and which we do not include here). However, as AI regulations progress globally, we can expect further debate, guidance and clarification as to what terms mean in practice.

  • Common definitions do occur but should not be presumed. For example, a number of ‘data’ related terms are consistent in England and Wales and in the EU as a result of the GDPR. The EU’s proposed AI laws intend to produce a similar ‘gold standard’ of legislation, which would include seeing terms being used consistently in different jurisdictions. However, regulators may intentionally choose not to do this. For example, the EU AI Act defines AI, whereas the UK policy position is that AI should remain undefined.

Why did we choose these sources?

Those looking to build or buy AI systems will be subject to various laws and regulations. They may also look to guidance which indicates how terms are understood and may be applied. Which ones apply, and the weight that they should be given (if any), needs to be considered in each case. This document is not legal advice. However, we think the sources used for this glossary (listed at the end) are some that are likely to have to be considered, or are useful to compare and contrast to help determine the meaning of a term.

Information is correct as at the first publication date of this version.

If you would like to discuss how current or future regulations impact what you do with AI, please contact Tom Whittaker or Brian Wong.