The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – the UK’s independent body set up to uphold information rights – has responded to the Department for Education’s call for evidence in generative AI in education.

The ICO has responsibility in the UK for promoting and enforcing a number of information related laws and regulations including the UK General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018. As noted in the ICO25 strategic plan, one of the ICO’s priorities is AI, as personal information is often used to train, test or deploy an AI system.  The ICO says that it "welcomes the Department for Education’s consultation on the use of GenAI in education and agrees with its position [here] on the potential benefits and risks of this technology."

The ICO’s response highlights:

  • Generative AI can support educators and benefit students but can also pose risks to individuals’ right to privacy.
  • Educational institutions using generative AI should consider data protection obligations from the outset (in particular, educational institutions’ obligations towards children).
  • Generative AI developers and deployers may fall within of the ICO’s Children’s code (or the Age Appropriate design code) if the system and/or outputs are likely to be accessed by children under 18. The ICO has recently published guidance to assist organisations in understanding whether children are likely to access their services, with specific clarification regarding the scope of the code in relation to education and EdTech providers.
  • Educational institutions deploying generative AI can use the ICO’s regulatory sandbox and Innovation Advice service to access tailored guidance.

The ICO concludes that generative AI technologies deployed in schools must be designed and implemented to “comply with all applicable laws including data, including data protection, and uphold people’s rights”.

The full response from the ICO can be found here.  

If you would like to discuss how current or future regulations impact what you do with AI, please contact David Varney, Tom Whittaker, Brian Wong, or any other member in our Technology team.

This article was written by Liz Smith.