The EU Parliament’s special committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age (AIDA) has adopted its report findings on artificial intelligence (AI).
In September 2020, the AIDA Committee was tasked with exploring the impact of AI on the EU economy and its different sectors, analysing the AI approach of third countries, and charting the road ahead. After 18 months of hearings and debates, the Committee has finalized its recommendations in a final report.
Public debate on AI should focus on this technology’s enormous potential to complement humans, said the report. “AI, if combined with the necessary support infrastructure, education, and training, can increase capital and labour productivity, innovation, sustainable growth and job creation,” MEPs added.
They 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”.
“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,” said Lead MEP Axel Voss (EPP, DE).
“The EU now has the unique chance 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.”
However, the report warned that the EU has fallen behind in the global race for tech leadership while it “needs to act as a global standard-setter in AI”. As a result, there is a risk that standards will be developed elsewhere in the future, often by non-democratic actors: “There was an imbalance in favour of dominant tech platforms that could pose systemic risks to democracy.” It added: “The EU should not always regulate AI as a technology.”
The report findings stressed that AI technologies can pose threats to fundamental ethical and legal rights, particularly privacy. As a result, “the level of regulatory intervention should be proportionate to the type of risk associated with using an AI system in a particular way”.
Concerns were raised over how the global community can reach a consensus on minimum standard for the responsible use of AI, as well as military research and technological developments into lethal autonomous weapon systems.
Certain AI technologies can enable the automation of information processing to an unprecedented scale, MEPs said, paving the way for mass surveillance and other unlawful interference that poses a threat to fundamental rights, in particular the rights to privacy and data protection.
Authoritarian regimes apply AI systems to control, exert mass surveillance and rank their citizens, or restrict freedom of movement. Dominant tech platforms use them to obtain more information on a person. Such profiling poses risks to democratic systems as well as to the safeguarding of fundamental rights, MEPs added.
“Our future global competitiveness in the digital field depends on the rules we put in place today,” said AIDA Committee Chair Dragoş Tudorache (Renew, RO). “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 – and unfortunately more deadly, as we have seen with Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine.”
The report was adopted by the Special Committee with 25 votes to 2, with 6 abstentions. It will be put to a vote by the full House in May.