The NRF Releases AI Guidelines for Retailers
In an effort to encourage appropriate and effective governance of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, promote consumer trust, and facilitate innovation and beneficial use of AI technologies, the National Retail Federation (NRF) has published a series of guidelines called Principles for the Use of Artificial Intelligence in the Retail Sector.
Developed through NRF's Center for Digital Risk & Innovation, the principles fall into four high-level categories:
- Governance and risk management: Retailers should develop strong internal governance of AI tools and capabilities as a foundational basis for managing risks and ensuring that AI delivers expected benefits.
- Customer engagement and trust: Retailers should be transparent about their uses of AI that have a legal or similarly significant effect on a customer, establish safeguards to prevent unlawful discrimination against protected classes of individuals, and align their governance of consumer-facing AI applications with existing internal privacy, cybersecurity and other data governance policies.
- Workforce applications and use: Retailers should engage in ongoing oversight and review of AI applications that may directly impact employees or that are used by the workforce to support business needs.
- Business partner accountability: Retailers should establish clear guidelines and expectations for business partners that are providing AI tools, data sets and services.
"Retailers use AI to better serve their customers, improve the shopping experience, and increase the efficiency of their operations,” NRF vice president of retail technology and cybersecurity and executive director of the NRF Center for Digital Risk & Innovation Christian Beckner said in a statement. “As retailers of all sizes continue to expand their AI capabilities, these general principles for the use of AI are increasingly critical to the industry.”
Total Retail's Take: It's prudent for the NRF, the largest trade organization for the retail industry, to put forth guidelines on the responsible usage of AI. This is particularly important and timely give some individual retailers are creating their own. Last month, for example, Walmart issued a new public guarantee that it will only develop and deploy AI technology in a safe and ethical manner. The Walmart Responsible AI Pledge is centered around six commitments that the retailer says highlight how customers, members and associates can expect the company to use AI responsibly.
Furthermore, in July 2023, chief Walmart rival Amazon.com joined six other high-tech companies in a Biden administration-supported initiative committing to the safe, secure and transparent development of AI. The other initial participating companies were Google, Meta, Microsoft, OpenAI, Anthropic, and Inflection.
From an experience and security perspective, it's important for retailers to use AI responsibly. The technology is being adopted at a staggering growth rate, yet with little to any regulation. The early days of AI, and particularly generative AI, have been like the Wild West in many respects. Therefore, any AI-related security and privacy incidents that a retailer may find itself in will diminish public trust and draw attention from regulators.