Gillan and Veldhuizen Inc., a Cape-based legal firm specialising in dispute resolution, has issued a timely warning to businesses in South Africa about the necessity of including AI policies in their company policy documents. In a recent interview, Managing Director, PJ Veldhuizen warned of the significant challenges he foresees arising from the increasing use of AI in the workplace and emphasised the importance of proactive measures to address these concerns. Veldhuizen underlined the potential risks associated with the unregulated usage of AI. “The rapid advancements in artificial intelligence have revolutionised many industries, but without proper policies in place, businesses expose themselves to unforeseen legal, ethical, and security issues,” he warned.

South Africa currently lacks specific legislation governing AI, leaving businesses vulnerable to potential liabilities and uncertainties. Veldhuizen cautions, “The absence of regulation necessitates a proactive approach from companies to address the potential challenges posed by AI usage in the workplace.”

One significant concern highlighted is the impact of AI on research, authenticity, and information sources. With AI increasingly involved in generating and disseminating information, the reliability and accuracy of data can be compromised. Veldhuizen points out, “The Dunning Kruger effect comes into play here. Businesses must recognise that they don’t know what they don’t know. It is crucial to acknowledge that relying on AI, with its limitations, as a watertight source can be dangerous.”

Moreover, digital and data security emerge as crucial areas where AI policies need to be established. Steven Pieterse, CEO of Metisware, a South African IT and digital agency, warns of the rise of cybercrime and the potential for AI tools to be targeted. Corporations face severe risks to their information and intellectual property. Pieterse explains, “AI tools are now powerful enough to impersonate CEOs and other key staff members on video calls, WhatsApp messages, and telephone calls, extorting businesses and individuals alike. Therefore, having proper policies on how to deal with these threats is vital for protecting businesses, not only to safeguard their digital assets and ensure robust data security measures but also to safeguard the financial well-being of your organisation.”

To mitigate these risks, Veldhuizen advises businesses to include specific clauses in their AI policies, such as rules governing data ownership and confidentiality over sensitive information as well as vendor and third-party liability guidelines. The latter should outline responsibilities regarding data protection, security, and compliance with relevant regulations. Veldhuizen also mentions the importance of contracts including clauses that hold vendors accountable in case of data breaches or AI-related incidents.

It is essential for policymakers and compliance officers to recognise and embrace the integration of AI into the workplace, while simultaneously exercising caution. By incorporating comprehensive policies into their company policy documents, businesses can effectively navigate the potential legal, ethical, and security risks associated with AI.

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, it is crucial to stay one step ahead.