MEPs urge for firm and clear rules on artificial intelligence

Parliament leads the way on first set of EU measures for AI

Photo: EP Axel Voss.

Artificial intelligence (AI) can be a powerful engine of digital change, but it can also become a demon that destroys vital systems and creates a lot of damage. To prevent the risks in this fast-growing field, the lawmakers adopted during the week several legislative initiatives related to artificial intelligence.

The new suggestions specifically focus on ways to boost innovation, ethical standards and trust in technology, while always under human control, protecting citizens.

AI is now an integral part of our everyday life and two out of three companies already use it permanently. The algorithms are present in telecommunications, navigation, finance, agriculture, among other spheres. Only in two years' time, 42% of tasks will be carried out by algorithms, compared with 29% nowadays.

The Commission will come up with a legislative proposal on AI early next year and as the MEPs underlined, the adopted recommendations “will pave the way for the EU to become a global leader in the development of AI”.

On ethics framework for AI, the legislative proposal authored by Iban Garcia del Blanco (S&D, ES) calls on the EU executive to put forward a new legal framework outlining the ethical principles and legal obligations to be followed when developing, deploying and using artificial intelligence, robotics and related technologies in the EU, including software, algorithms and data.

Specific legislation is recommended on a human-centric and human-made AI, on safety, transparency and accountability, on safeguards against bias and discrimination, right to redress, on social and environmental responsibility and on respect for privacy and data protection.

Lawmakers said that high-risk AI technologies, like those with self-learning capacities, should be designed to allow for human oversight at any time. For example, if a functionality is used that would result in a serious breach of ethical principles and could be dangerous, the self-learning capacities should be disabled and full human control should be restored.

Axel Voss (EPP, DE) is the rapporteur on the legislative initiative that recommends a future-oriented civil liability framework, making those operating high-risk AI strictly liable for any resulting damage.

I believe that the Member States must look into themselves and go beyond their own competences and that it is in everyone's interest if we discuss civil liability accordingly, the rapporteur stressed.

The measures should apply to physical or virtual AI activity that harms or damages life, health, physical integrity, property, or that causes significant immaterial harm if it results in “verifiable economic loss”. According to the MEPs, while high-risk AI technologies are still rare, their operators should hold insurance similar to that used for motor vehicles.

On the big topic of intellectual property rights, the report by Stephane Sejourne (Renew Europe, FR) specifies that EU global leadership in AI requires an effective intellectual property rights system (IPR) and safeguards for the EU's patent system to protect innovative developers, while stressing that this should not come at the expense of human creators' interests, nor the EU's ethical principles.

AI-assisted human creations and AI-generated creations should be distinguished, MEPs asserted, noting that AI should not have legal personality. Ownership of IPRs should only be granted to humans, the proposal reads, zooming also into copyright, data collection, trade secrets, the use of algorithms and deep fakes.

It will also be necessary to have a major data strategy, we need large data sets so that an artificial intelligence system can develop ideas, the author of the text said.

 

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