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GenAI Regulation: British Businesses Must Rebuild Consumer Trust

Written By Erin Nicholson, Global Head of Privacy and Data Protection at Thoughtworks

The UK’s first ever AI Safety Summit underlined a critical need for robust GenAI regulation. The summit reflected a complex sentiment from the public: excitement paired with hesitation about who is controlling the technology, and fallout of further technological advances. This duality is sharpened by recent research by Thoughtworks, finding that 42% of consumers are part excited, part nervous about businesses using GenAI.

Typically, this nervousness stems from a lack of trust. Consumers are now sceptical of how businesses are using GenAI, questioning what this means for the data that they share with companies that they buy from, and the authenticity of the interactions they have with these businesses. Business leaders must understand that this has the potential to shake up consumer loyalty. The majority (82%) of those surveyed by Thoughtworks favour businesses that proactively communicate how they are evaluating the ethical risks and social implications of GenAI.

So, as the festive season approaches and sales are set to rise, this dynamic poses two crucial questions. Firstly, will consumer loyalty pivot towards those who lead with transparency and ethical consideration  in GenAI? And if so, what steps can businesses take to stay competitive ?

 

Trust issues for consumers

As reinforced by attendees of the AI Safety Summit in November, government regulation presents the best means to mitigate against the unethical use of GenAI. Our data underlines that consumers are in agreement, with 91% of Brits thinking that government regulations are a necessary measure to hold businesses accountable. Considerations regarding employers’ use of GenAI and the replacement of jobs was also a consideration, and one to be discussed at a later time.

This growing recognition among consumers highlights a collective understanding of the necessity for government intervention.  This will ensure and encourage fairness, inclusivity, and accountability in the design and deployment of GenAI. So much so that a third of consumers think that businesses should stop the development of such tools until effective government regulations are in place.

However, while the demand for action is understood, many worry about the reality of the regulation. Right now, the onus is on businesses to build trust in GenAI technologies, but over half (56%) of consumers don’t trust businesses to actually follow the regulation provided.

Within this doubt it’s important that business decision makers recognise an opportunity for business growth. Acting upon consumer concerns can help businesses pivot towards demand, and gain a competitive advantage.

 

The importance of transparency

Customer centricity is central to a healthy GenAI use strategy. Consumer attitudes and behaviour must be used to shine a light on what consumers want from GenAI technology. Yes, they want it to improve their buying experience, but they don’t want to sacrifice their privacy in the process.

As businesses work tirelessly to innovate, and governments work hard to regulate, consumers are doubting the intentions behind this development. Our research shows that nearly a third of consumers don’t think that increased AI regulation is actually for their benefit. This means that businesses must be doing more to cultivate a more trusted relationship with their customers.

The solution for which lies largely within transparency.

This evolving landscape offers businesses the opportunity to adopt a ‘responsible tech’ mindset. A way of thinking that is in the best interests of customers, but is also essential to protecting brand perception and maintaining public trust.

 

Clear communication regarding the use of GenAI and consumer data is pivotal in alleviating fears of misuse. To act with a heightened sense of responsibility, means to recognise that building trust involves proactive steps beyond regulatory compliance. The benefits of such an approach are twofold. Firstly, this will enhance a company’s social licence to operate, solidifying its reputation as a responsible entity in the eyes of consumers. Secondly, it potentially mitigates the need for heavy-handed regulatory intervention, which can sometimes stifle innovation and growth. Essentially, businesses are forced to hold themselves accountable if they act in a transparent manner. This is already enshrined in data protection laws, and so business should take heed that this is already a requirement.

In a world where trust is paramount, businesses must understand that gaining the public’s confidence through ethical AI is not just a regulatory obligation, it’s a strategic advantage. Naturally, business leaders are often focused on building GenAI trust with their own employees, meaning customers can fall down the pile of priorities. For decades, Thoughtworks has advised our clients on how to tap into the full advantage of the latest emerging technology while also building responsible governance into business processes to protect customers’ trust.