EU Artificial Intelligence Act comes to life

Michał Mikulski
With groundwork paved by the European Commission's White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, the Artificial Intelligence Act slowly but surely comes to life, but not without controversies and problems.

In February 2020 the European Commission published official guidelines regarding challenges faced by the widespread adoption of AI technology. Those were followed by the European Union's Artificial Intelligence Act, which works as a legislation backbone for future developments.

Addressing challenges is just one part of the problem. Another one is making the EU market competitive against American and Chinese solutions. As stated in the EC's White Paper:

[...] Against a background of fierce global competition, a solid European approach is needed, building on the European strategy for AI presented in April 2018. To address the opportunities and challenges of AI, the EU must act as one and define its own way, based on European values, to promote the development and deployment of AI.

Ecosystem of excellence and ecosystem of trust

The two biggest take-aways from the EU's guidelines are the solutions called ecosystem of excellence and ecosystem of trust. In a nutshell, the first one is a framework for multinational cooperation between the private and the public sector to create the right incentives to accelerate the adoption of solutions based on AI. An ecosystem of trust is connected with AI misuse prevention, mostly by the private sector but also by governments and even in military applications.

These solutions should create a perfect environment for investing in AI or data-related companies. We read the following in the White Paper:

Some €3.2 billion were invested in AI in Europe in 2016, compared to around €12.1 billion in North America and €6.5 billion in Asia. In response, Europe needs to increase its investment levels significantly.

AI Act in 2022. Not everybody's happy

Artificial Intelligence Act is at a point where EU countries discuss universal adoption of the guidelines. But not everybody is happy, which was clearly expressed by lawmaker Svenja Hahn from the European Parliament on 22nd March 2022. On one side Artificial Intelligence Act could make the adoption of AI for mass surveillance harder, on the other “regulation needs to be innovation friendly. It should not bring other aspects, for example GDPR aspects, into it” – said Svenja Hahn in an interview for Reuters. Being a member of a cross-party parliamentary committee on AI, Hahn believes that there should be a general positive approach towards artificial intelligence.

Discussion between nation states also takes a certain amount of time, as some governments believe that the EU's AI framework is “another GDPR”. From a citizen's perspective, it's a good thing, but businesses and governments can view it differently.

The draft law does not prohibit the full extent of unacceptable uses of AI and in particular all forms of biometric mass surveillance. This leaves a worrying gap for discriminatory and surveillance technologies used by governments and companies – warned Sarah Chander from lobbying group CCIA in the article by biometricupdate.

Practical use of AI with privacy in mind

We can all imagine horrific implications of a harmful adoption of AI, especially in the public sphere. Just take Chinese government practices as an example, with social credit scores, biometric recognition and millions of CCTV cameras lurking over its citizens. The Artificial Intelligence Act is there to prevent these scenarios, for better or for worse. GDPR at its inception was also highly criticized.

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