U.S. and Chinese firms face more scrutiny under EU new rules around AI and Data

20 Feb, 2020 02:00
source: Singularity Financial

Social media platforms and artificial intelligence developers will face new regulations under a European Union plan published today. The White Paper on Artificial Intelligence is now open for public consultation until 19 May 2020.

The President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen: “Today we are presenting our ambition to shape Europe’s digital future. It covers everything from cybersecurity to critical infrastructures, digital education to skills, democracy to media. I want that digital Europe reflects the best of Europe – open, fair, diverse, democratic, and confident.”

Executive Vice-President for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager: “We want every citizen, every employee, every business to stand a fair chance to reap the benefits of digitalization. Whether that means driving more safely or polluting less thanks to connected cars; or even saving lives with AI-driven medical imagery that allows doctors to detect diseases earlier than ever before.”

U.S. and Chinese firms hoping to deploy artificial intelligence and other technology in Europe will have to submit to a slew of new rules and tests under the European Commission’s proposed AI and digital strategy.

The commission said it would begin a consultation period that will take months before any concrete legal proposals are ready. The debate is expected to last through much of the year.

Companies that have become “gatekeepers” between businesses and customers — like Amazon for shopping, Apple’s App Store, Facebook’s social network and Google’s search engine — will face more scrutiny. A particular focus, officials said, will be on the data they hold that could give them an unfair advantage over rivals.

Artificial intelligence technology — in which computers are being trained to perform increasingly complex tasks — would also receive fresh government oversight, especially where the automated systems create harmful risks, such as in health, transportation and policing. The commission said artificial intelligence systems in these “high risk” areas would have to be independently tested and certified before they could be used in the 27 countries of the European Union.

EU Rejects Facebook Proposal

Thierry Breton, the EU’s industry commissioner, held a meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday ahead of the European Commission’s release of new laws relating to artificial intelligence (AI).

Breton rejected Facebook’s discussion paper issued on Monday, where it had suggested setting flexible rules, which would have allowed companies like Facebook to report content periodically and publish enforcement data. Breton told media after the meeting that Facebook had failed to mention its market dominance or spell out its responsibilities.

The EU official said, “Online platforms, and in particular its society, now have … an obvious responsibility towards our fellow citizens, towards all of us, towards those who are users of its society, and also towards democracy.” According to Deutsche Welle (DW), Breton also promised stricter intervention in the future if all the platforms operating on the European continent do not respect the conditions he has outlined.

Catching up American and Chinese Counterparts

The European Commission officials said the effort is a “generational project,” and the ideas reflect a growing concern among European leaders that countries in the region are overly dependent on services provided by companies based elsewhere. With the global economy becoming ever more centered around technology, European countries would have a harder time creating jobs and generating tax revenue to fund government services.

Recent research showed that less than half of European firms have adopted AI technology, and that only four European companies are in the top 100 global AI startups. In Europe, “the pace of AI diffusion and investments remains limited”, noted analysts from research firm McKinsey.

The Commission’s paper does acknowledge the need to catch up, noting that the €3.2bn ($3.4bn) invested in AI in Europe since 2016 is “still a fraction” of the investments in other regions of the world. In North America, the sum invested during the same period amounts to €12.1 bn ($13bn).

ZDNet London Reporter Daphne Leprince-Ringuet commented, the objective announced today by the organisation is to attract over €20bn ($21.5bn) of total investment per year in AI in the next decade. “Europe does well at research and innovation, but it isn’t good at translating this into products for the market,” said Coeckelbergh. “There is a feeling that we need to do something.”