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European Commission Aims to Build AI Regulatory Systems Based on European Values

Jericho Casper

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Photo of Senior Policy Analyst Eline Chivot courtesy of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

July 15, 2020 — The European Commission is preparing to develop and adopt new policies regarding artificial intelligence, with the ultimate goal of becoming a global leader in innovation surrounding the data economy and its applications.

In a Wednesday webinar hosted by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation Center for Data Innovation, stakeholders and industry representatives joined moderator Eline Chivot, a senior policy analyst at the center, to discuss the policy options outlined in a recent Commission white paper on AI.

The white paper called for the European Union to define its own standards in order to promote the development and deployment of AI based on European values.

The Commission aims to introduce an AI ecosystem that brings the benefits of the technology to the entirety of European society by accounting for citizens, business and public interest. It plans to achieve this ecosystem of excellence and trust through a human-centric approach.

In regard to building an environment of trust, Irina Orssich, team leader for AI at the Commission’s Communications Networks, Content and Technology Department, argued that the first step is greater legislation. Very few critics of the white paper believe current legislation is sufficient.

Screenshot of panelists from the ITIF webinar

The General Data Protection Regulation, the last major EU legislation on data protection, was written from 2014 to 2016, before the major wave of AI took place globally.

“GDPR is still a rather new rule, but things have come up since it was written, and in that sense its getting old,” said Janne Elvelid, policy manager of EU affairs at Facebook.

Elvelid called for any new models developed by the Commission to align with GDPR, as there are already a few aspects of AI in the regulation. Facebook broadly welcomes the Commission’s proposal, he added.

Panelists agreed that there is an important balance between regulation and innovation that needs to be protected by the new laws.

Too much regulation could potentially hamper the very innovation that the Commission is aiming to foster.

The Commission should not regulate too much too soon, Elvelid said, as this could possibly reduce the benefits afforded by AI.

Kees van der Klauw, coalition manager of the Netherlands AI Coalition, referenced Amazon’s growth, arguing that when it comes to innovation, “it’s better to apologize afterwards then wait for permission.”

“We can have a clear framework that promotes innovation,” Orssich claimed, listing off Commission protocols that would support such an environment, such as offering controlled environments to test AI programs.

Orssich is one of many at the Commission currently in the process of reading through over 1,215 responses to the white paper.

Individuals can expect to see a report published on the preliminary results of these public comments in the next few days, she said.

After analyzing the public feedback, the Commission will release a legislative proposal on AI.

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