Businesses using innovative artificial intelligence (AI) solutions should turn their attention to Brussels as the next EU Commission promises to come forward with legislation on AI within 100 days of taking office on 1 December. European politicians have expressed concerns about some applications of AI and are convinced that immediate legislation is the answer. However, attempting to regulate a technology like AI, with its variety of applications, is a complex process and may produce unintended negative consequences.
With a new parliament in place and a new Commission about to start its term, the EU is going through the process of setting its priorities for the next five years. Technology and digital policy remain key areas of interest for EU policy-makers, following on from the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy. As a priority, the incoming European Commission has set its sights on AI regulation, amid worries about how AI technology can be used to affect peoples’ daily lives and a belief that the EU can repeat the success of GDPR and develop the global gold-standard for AI regulation.
European politicians, who consider themselves global defenders of privacy and fundamental rights, are concerned by the emergence of discriminatory formal and informal social credit scoring systems, the growing use of AI-enabled facial recognition technology, and reports of AI-amplified bias affecting ordinary people applying for jobs, loans, and educational opportunities. They are also concerned the EU is falling behind the US and China and see the development of a robust ethical and regulatory framework for AI as Europe’s best chance of catching up. European Commission President-elect, Ursula von der Leyen, has made a clear commitment to regulate AI as soon as possible.
“In my first 100 days in office, I will put forward legislation for a coordinated European approach on the human and ethical implications of artificial intelligence.” – Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President-elect
The EU took tentative steps towards understanding and regulating AI as far back as 2018, with the establishment of a High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence. The group has produced a long list of policy and investment recommendations for AI, many of which may find their way into the proposed legislation.
However, with many AI technologies only recently achieving commercial deployment and a range of new companies creating innovative AI applications, the EU runs the risk of regulating too soon and restraining a new wave of innovation before it even starts. In particular, the 100-day deadline for action means the implications of any new legislation may not be fully thought through. This leads to the possibility of serious legislative barriers for companies trying to develop or implement AI solutions in Europe.
Access Partnership’s Europe team closely monitors activity around AI regulation, in Brussels and across other European capitals. While the pledge by the European Commission President-elect has given her plenty of headlines, the details are yet to be worked out. There is a window of opportunity for companies to explain their business model and approach to AI ethics and privacy to policy-makers in Brussels, shaping policy development to ensure future regulation protects citizens without inhibiting innovation.
Author: Tiernan Kenny, Public Policy Manager, Access Partnership