European Commission publish AI White Paper

Today in Brussels the European Commission has published its ‘White Paper on Artificial Intelligence- A European approach to excellence and trust’ (with accompanying Liability Report). The aim of the paper is to set out Europe’s approach to remaining a global leader in the field of AI and has been expected since Commission President, Ursula Von Der Leyden committed to AI regulation within the new Commission’s first 100 days.

The paper attributes Europe’s ‘competitive disadvantage in data access’ to its ‘weaker position in consumer applications and online platforms’. They predict the advent of the Industrial Internet of Things and edge computing will result in the radical change in the distribution of data and in the nature of data collected.  The rhetoric in this paper, like the EU data strategy, focuses on increasing Europe’s technological sovereignty as key to enabling technologies and infrastructures for the data economy. Importantly the Commission states the need for AI to be “grounded in our values and fundamental rights such as human dignity and privacy protection” and supports the AI HLEG’s human- centric approach to AI.

The Commission’s view that it should focus on “high-risk” applications when it comes to regulatory invention seems sensible. We support the Commission’s rhetoric around proportionality and that any horizontal framework for AI should not be excessively prescriptive.  We agree that “in any new legal instrument, the definition of AI will need to be sufficiently flexible to accommodate technical progress while being precise enough to provide the necessary legal certainty”.

The Commission goes on to consider “that an objective, prior conformity assessment would be necessary to verify and ensure that certain” “mandatory requirements applicable to high-risk applications are complied with. The prior conformity assessment could include procedures for testing, inspection or certification. It could include checks of the algorithms and of the data sets used in the development phase”. “If the conformity assessment shows that an AI system does not meet the requirements for example relating to the data used to train it, the identified shortcomings will need to be remedied, for instance by re-training the system in the EU in such a way as to ensure that all applicable requirements are met”. How companies would re-train their models using European data without introducing unnecessary burden or bias in the training data requires further consideration.

The brief mention of a voluntary labelling scheme for no-high risk AI applications, to help signify trustworthy AI is an interesting concept that has been proposed by others in the past. Self-regulation can be an effective response but further information on what this would look like in practice, including how the labelling would be effectively monitored and kept updated, would be welcomed.

On the topic of remote biometric identification, the Commission states: “In order to address possible societal concerns relating to the use of AI for such purposes in public places, and to avoid fragmentation in the internal market, the Commission will launch a broad European debate on the specific circumstances, if any, which might justify such use, and on common safeguards”.

Other proposals made the Commission include: the establishment of a new public private partnership in AI and robotics, a new 100 million euro pilot scheme to provide equity financing for innovative AI developments, a possible new legal instrument to facilitate the creation of excellence and testing centers that can combine European, national and private investments and finally, working with Member States, the Commission will ensure that at least one digital innovation hub per Member State has a high degree of specialisation on AI. The Commission will also initiate “open and transparent sector dialogues giving priority to healthcare, rural administrations and public service operators in order to present an action plan to facilitate development, experimentation and adoption”. “The sector dialogues will be used to prepare a specific ‘Adopt AI programme’ that will support public procurement of AI systems, and help to transform public procurement processes themselves”.

This White Paper on artificial intelligence is now open for public consultation until 19 May 2020. If you’d like to feed-in to techUK’s response, please get in touch with Katherine. The Commission, taking into account the results of the public consultation on the White Paper, will propose to Member States a revision of the Coordinated plan to be adopted by the end of 2020.

  • Katherine Mayes

    Katherine Mayes

    Programme Manager | Cloud, Data, Analytics and AI
    T 020 7331 2019

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