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News

EU lawmakers draw up plans for human-centric AI framework

4.11.2020
Company: Bird & Bird s.r.o. advokátní kancelář

Substantial insights have emerged in recent weeks regarding what to expect from a forthcoming European Artificial Intelligence (AI) legislative proposal, due to be presented by the European Commission in early 2021.

The latest discussions confirmed that the regulation of this new technology relies on closely interlinked legislative initiatives, ranging from the new EU Data Strategy and the creation of a Single Data Market to the Commission's Green Deal plan to address climate and environmental challenges. The final objective is to ensure a sustainable digital economy and achieve the ambition of making the European AI regulatory framework a model for the rest of the world.

On 26 and 27 October, a European Parliament special committee on Artificial Intelligence in the Digital Age (AIDA) held its first two hearings with Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager and Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton. The establishment of the AIDA committee confirms the strategic importance of the topic for EU lawmakers, as it has been created to provide an institutional forum to coordinate work on the upcoming legislation with the other EU Institutions and to discuss the main issues that the AI regulatory framework will need to tackle.

During the recent AIDA discussion, Executive Vice-President Vestager highlighted the human-centric approach currently being pursued by the Commission which she said aims to create an ecosystem of excellence and trust based on the values on upon which the EU society is built. Commissioner Breton put the accent on the strategical importance that data, and in particular industrial data, play when regulating AI. Mr Breton stressed that the goal of the EU executive is to create a Single Data Market, intending to ensure data interoperability and the robustness of data sets.

The French Commissioner also unveiled the structure of the upcoming AI proposal, expected to take the form of a 'five-pillar' approach. The main areas identified will be as follows:

  • A wide-ranging and functional definition of AI, to make sure it will cover future technological developments;
  • A risk-based approach in regulating AI, with specific limitations in place for the so-called "high-risk AI applications";
  • Biometrics identification tools, which will be required to comply with specific conformity standards equally applicable to both EU and non-EU AI products sold in the EU;
  • Clear information for users to ensure transparency and legal certainty;
  • A true data economy, enabling the EU to process and save (especially industrial) data within its borders and making it sovereign and independent from third-countries jurisdictions.

In advance of the AIDA hearing, the European Parliament in plenary session approved the first set of recommendations regarding how AI should be regulated in Europe. More specifically, the reports adopted a focus on three crucial areas when it comes to the legislative debate around AI:

  • Ethical Framework: the approved Report highlights the ethical principles to be observed by AI applications at any stage, from their development to their use, including human oversight of AI, transparency, accountability, right to redress and respect for privacy and data protection. Additional concerns raised by MEPs include social and environmental responsibility, indicating a close link between the two EU top priorities: digital and green plans.
  • Civil liability: MEPs called for a new forward-looking civil liability framework, which should primarily address "high-risk AI" making such applications strictly liable for any damage caused. Such a legal framework would have a two-fold aim: ensuring legal certainty for business operators and promoting trust in the new technologies among consumers.
  • Intellectual property rights: to enable Europe to become a global leader in AI, a proper IPR framework should be established. In particular, MEPs called for safeguards to be put in place in the EU patents system to boost and protect innovation and stressed that IP ownership should only be granted to humans, with this denying recognition of legal personality to AI systems.

Artificial Intelligence has also been at the centre of discussions in the Council, where the German Presidency on 21 October issued Conclusions on the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the context of Artificial Intelligence and Digital change. According to the Presidency Conclusions, the main source of concern around AI and fundamental rights is the use of biometric tools in public spaces for mass surveillance purposes. If these systems are to be permitted, the Council calls for "clear legal requirements" to be put in place. EU fundamental values, together with legal certainty, are viewed as the core prerequisite for a digitally sovereign Europe.

For further information contact Chiara Horgan

 

Tags: Law | IT |

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