Artifical Intelligence: EU rules must ward of threat to fundamental rights

MEPs say public debate on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) should focus on technology’s enormous potential to complement humans

MEP Axel Voss
MEP Axel Voss

The European Parliament’s Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age (AIDA) has adopted final recommendations on Tuesday, concluding 18 months of inquiries.

The AIDA committee has proposed an EU Roadmap up to 2030 to plot the course of developing AI regulation.

The report, which was approved in the committee with 25 votes to 2, and 6 abstentions, says there’s currently an imbalance in favour of dominant tech platforms which poses a systemic risk to democracy.

However despite the threat AI can pose to democracy and fundamental rights. it could also hold huge benefits for combating climate change, pandemics and in the labour market.

“With the AIDA report we clearly show that AI will be a booster for digitalisation and a game-changer in global digital competition, and our AI roadmap puts the EU in a position to take the lead,” Axel Voss (EPP) said.

Voss said this was a unique chance for the EU to promote a human-centric and trustworthy approach to AI based on fundamental rights that manages risks while taking full advantage of the benefits AI can bring for the whole of society.

“We need a legal framework that leaves space for innovation, and a harmonised digital single market with clear standards. We need maximum investment and a robust and sustainable digital infrastructure that all citizens can access”, he added.

MEPs said that certain AI technologies enable the automation of information processing to an unprecedented scale. This paves the way for mass surveillance and other unlawful interference and poses a threat to fundamental rights, in particular the rights to privacy and data protection.

In terms of potential risks and threats emanating from AI the draft text also stresses that AI technologies could pose crucial ethical and legal questions. It highlights the challenge of reaching a consensus within the global community on minimum standards for the responsible use of AI, and concerns about military research and technological developments into lethal autonomous weapons systems.

AIDA Committee Chair Dragoş Tudorache (Renew) said: “Our future global competitiveness in the digital field depends on the rules we put in place today. These rules need to be in line with our values: democracy, rule of law, fundamental rights, and respect for the rules-based international order. This is paramount, as the struggle between authoritarianism and democracy is becoming more and more acute”

The report does warn that the EU has fallen behind in the global race for tech leadership. As a result, there is a risk that standards will be developed elsewhere in the future, often by non-democratic actors.

MEPs identified policy options that could unlock AI’s potential in health, the environment and climate change, to help combat pandemics and global hunger, as well as enhancing people’s quality of life through personalised medicine.

AI, if combined with the necessary support infrastructure, education and training, can increase capital and labour productivity, innovation, sustainable growth and job creation, the MEPs said.

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