UK competition watchdog to probe AI market

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is launching a review of the AI market, now dominated by Microsoft and Google, in a bid to prevent monopoly and protect consumer rights.

The CMA announced that it had launched an “initial review” of AI foundation models or software behind popular chatbots like ChatGPT.

It said it would focus on how the development of the technology, including large language models and generative AI, affects competition and consumer protection.

The rapidly developing technology “has the potential to transform the way businesses compete as well as drive substantial economic growth,” the CMA’s Chief Executive Sarah Cardell said.

But, she added, it was “crucial that the potential benefits of this transformative technology are readily accessible to UK businesses and consumers while people remain protected from issues like false or misleading information.”

“Our goal is to help this new, rapidly scaling technology develop in ways that ensure open, competitive markets and effective consumer protection,” Cardell said.

The CMA said the development of AI raised several other issues, including safety, security, copyright, privacy, and human rights.

It said it was launching a probe at the request of the UK government, which asked a range of regulators to devise ways to keep the “revolutionary” technology within “adequate guardrails.”

Last week, the CMA blocked Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of video games giant Activision, indicating its readiness to prevent tech giants from assuming dominating positions in emerging technology sectors.

Microsoft and Google could find themselves in the crosshairs of regulators, with their respective chatbots, OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Bard, currently dominating the AI landscape.

Increasing regulatory pressure comes amid fears that AI could displace hundreds of millions of jobs and concerns it could be used to abuse privacy and spread misinformation.

Geoffrey Hinton, the “godfather” of AI, has warned of the dangers that the technology entails after quitting his job at Google this week.

In March, a group of academics and industry leaders, including Twitter’s Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak called for a pause in AI development until proper safeguards are in place.

The EU is expected to adopt the world’s first comprehensive legislation regulating AI later this year, and the White House has unveiled its own initiative to promote responsible AI innovation.