The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

About this guidance

What is the purpose of this guidance?

This guidance covers the various roles, policies, procedures and documentation that you can put in place to ensure your organisation is set up to provide meaningful explanations to affected individuals.

How should we use this guidance?

This is primarily for senior executives in your organisation. It offers a broad outline of the roles that have a part to play in providing an explanation to the decision recipient, whether directly or as a part of the decision-making process.

Data protection officers (DPOs) and compliance teams as well as technical teams may also find the documentation section useful.

What is the status of this guidance?

This guidance is issued in response to the commitment in the Government’s AI Sector Deal, but it is not a statutory code of practice under the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018) nor is it intended as comprehensive guidance on data protection compliance.

This is practical guidance that sets out good practice for explaining decisions to individuals that have been made using AI systems processing personal data.

Why is this guidance from the ICO and The Alan Turing Institute?

The ICO is responsible for overseeing data protection in the UK, and The Alan Turing Institute (The Turing) is the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.

In October 2017, Professor Dame Wendy Hall and Jérôme Pesenti published their independent review on growing the AI industry in the UK. The second of the report’s recommendations to support uptake of AI was for the ICO and The Turing to:

“…develop a framework for explaining processes, services and decisions delivered by AI, to improve transparency and accountability.”

In April 2018, the government published its AI Sector Deal. The deal tasked the ICO and The Turing to:

“…work together to develop guidance to assist in explaining AI decisions.”

The independent report and the Sector Deal are part of ongoing efforts made by national and international regulators and governments to address the wider implications of transparency and fairness in AI decisions impacting individuals, organisations, and wider society.