EU unveils vision for the future of secure AI in a complicated world

19 Feb 2020

EC president Ursula von der Leyen looks at an invention at the AI Xperience Centre in Brussels. Image: Stephanie Lecocq/Pool Photo via AP

With most AI tech and data in the hands of major corporations, the EU has published proposals for how its citizens could take back control.

The EU has unveiled proposals to regulate AI that call for strict rules and safeguards on risky applications of the emerging technology. The report on AI is part of the bloc’s wider digital strategy aimed at maintaining its position as the global pacesetter on technological standards.

The EU’s executive commission said it wants to develop a “framework for trustworthy AI”.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen had ordered her top deputies to come up with a coordinated European approach to AI and data strategy in the first 100 days after she took office in December.

‘Digital transformation cannot be left to chance’

Clear rules are needed to address “high-risk AI systems” such as those in health, policing or transport, which should be “transparent, traceable and guarantee human oversight”, the EU said.

Authorities should be able to test and certify the data used by the algorithms that power AI in the same way they check cosmetics, cars and toys, it said. It is important to use unbiased data to train high-risk AI systems so they can avoid discrimination, the Commission said.

EU leaders said they also wanted to open a debate on when to allow facial recognition in remote identification systems, which are used to scan crowds to check people’s faces against those on a database.

It is considered the “most intrusive form” of the technology and is prohibited in the EU except in special cases.

Thoughts from a ‘tech optimist’

In an op-ed, von der Leyen reaffirmed that despite the EU drawing up a precautionary framework regarding AI, she remains a “tech optimist”.

“Digital transformation cannot be left to chance,” she wrote.

“We must ensure that our rights, privacy and protections are the same online as they are off it. That we can each have control over our own lives and over what happens to our personal information. That we can trust technology with what we say and do. That new tech does not come with new values.”

She added that the new white paper’s aim is not “more regulation, but practical safeguards”.

“We successfully shaped other industries – from cars to food – and we will now apply the same logic and standards in the new data-agile economy,” she said.

– PA Media, with additional reporting from Colm Gorey