Brussels (Brussels Morning) The European Commission today announced its first rules dealing with the complexities and demands of regulating artificial intelligence (AI), pledging a “human-centric” approach that focuses on the potential AI offers society and the economy, with full respect for human rights and privacy.
“It is a landmark proposal”, the Commission’s Executive VP Margrethe Vestager declared, “the result of three years of work”.
Accordingly, the Commission will ban outright specific “high-risk” AI systems and other systems will be restricted from the bloc if they fail to meet EU standards. Non-compliant companies could be subject to 20 million euro fines or 4% of their turnover.
Along with its proposed regulatory measures, the Commission also announced a coordinated plan outlining the necessary policies and investement at EU countries level.
Overall, EU policy-makers have agreed on avoiding pitfalls associated with AI such as facial recognition. However, the Commission indicated that the use of such technology in public places could be considered if use of the application is limited and has legal justification. For example, in instances where law enforcement officers might require facial recognition technology from CCTV cameras to find terrorists, it could be allowed on an exceptional basis , the Commission stated.
“The new AI regulation will make sure that Europeans can trust what AI has to offer”, the Commission stated.
The Wall Street Journal described the bill as “one of the broadest of its kind” and part of the EU’s “expansion of its role as a global tech enforcer”.
Regulating the danger
Social scoring systems will not be allowed in Europe, the EU executive guaranteed, as it “contravenes the Union values”.
“There is no room for mass surveillance in our society”, Vestager asserted. The proposal would seek to prohibit AI systems that engage in mass surveillance or exploit or target people’s vulnerabilities by manipulating their behaviour, opinions or decisions.
For governance and oversight puproses, the Commission proposes setting up a European Artificial Intelligence Board to facilitate regulatory implementation, as well as the development of standards for AI.
In the interim, national competent market surveillance authorities should supervise the new rules, the Commission said.
During a debate on the future of AI in Europe, in January 2020, Vestager highlighted the importance of regulating AI technologies, noting that some AI “may be life or death for you”.
She reiterated the potential AI offers the economy in general and urged the Parliament and the Council to maximise its benefits.
“AI is a means, not an end. It has been around for decades but has reached new capacities fueled by computing power”, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton stated
“This offers immense potential in areas as diverse as health, transport, energy, agriculture, tourism or cyber security”, he said, while acknowledging that its application “also presents a number of risks”.
Despite some of these reservations, the application of AI technology to healthcare, for example, is expected to pave the way for major progress in drug development and in improving early diagnosis in patient care.
A recent briefing by the European Environment Agency (EEA) assessed that advanced digital technologies such as artificial intelligence can play a crucial role in making Europe’s waste management systems more circular and sustainable, improving logistics, recycling rates and enabling better purchasing and sorting decisions by consumers.
When it comes to technology and R&D, Europe is well positioned according to the CEO of Element AI, Jean-François Gagné. However, it lacks business and non-EU platforms, including machine learning, deep learning or pre-built algorithms and code frameworks.
MEPs stressed the need for massive investments in research, robust infrastructure ecosystems, and inclusive data. Parliament maintains that the EU can only stamp its influence on the world stage if all EU countries work together.
The data rules applied in the EU make it more difficult to build global players, EIT Digital said, comparing the EU to North American and Asian markets, where companies can access large pools of data, easily forming algorithms.
MEP Dragoș Tudorache (Renew Europe) summed up the situation. “The digital revolution will bring with it a reshuffle of the established global order: those who are digitally competitive will stay ahead and become the new ‘digital superpowers’, while those who are not digitally competitive will fall behind, no matter what their relative position is now”.