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EU outlines its vision for secure data and Artificial Intelligence

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EU outlines its vision for secure data and Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence - Image by Alejandro Zorrilal Cruz

(BRUSSELS) - The EU Commission presented Wednesday a European data strategy and policy options for a secure human-centric development of Artificial Intelligence opening up new opportunities for businesses.

"Today we are presenting our ambition to shape Europe's digital future," said the Commission president Ursula von der Leyen: "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."

The Commission says its White Paper on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and European data strategy set global standards on technological development while 'putting people first. Europe as a trusted digital leader'.

Over the next five years, the Commission will focus on three key objectives in digital:

  • Technology that works for people;
  • A fair and competitive economy; and
  • An open, democratic and sustainable society.

The EU executive says new policies and frameworks will enable Europe to deploy cutting-edge digital technologies and strengthen its cybersecurity capacities. Europe will continue to preserve its open, democratic and sustainable society and digital tools can support these principles. It will develop and pursue its own path to become a globally competitive, value-based and inclusive digital economy and society, while continuing to be an open but rules-based market, and to work closely with its international partners.

Regarding Artificial Intelligence the Commission says that Europe has all it needs to become a world leader in AI systems that can be safely used and applied. It has 'excellent research centres, secure digital systems and a robust position in robotics as well as competitive manufacturing and services sectors, spanning from automotive to energy, from healthcare to agriculture'.

In the White Paper, the Commission envisages a framework for trustworthy Artificial Intelligence, based on excellence and trust. In partnership with the private and the public sector, the aim is to mobilise resources along the entire value chain and to create the right incentives to accelerate deployment of AI, including by smaller and medium-sized enterprises.

This includes working with Member States and the research community, to attract and keep talent. As AI systems can be complex and bear significant risks in certain contexts, building trust is essential. It says clear rules need to address high-risk AI systems without putting too much burden on less risky ones. Strict EU rules for consumer protection, to address unfair commercial practices and to protect personal data and privacy, continue to apply.

For high-risk cases, such as in health, policing, or transport, AI systems should be transparent, traceable and guarantee human oversight. Authorities should be able to test and certify the data used by algorithms as they check cosmetics, cars or toys. Unbiased data is needed to train high-risk systems to perform properly, and to ensure respect of fundamental rights, in particular non-discrimination.

While today, the use of facial recognition for remote biometric identification is generally prohibited and can only be used in exceptional, duly justified and proportionate cases, subject to safeguards and based of EU or national law, the Commission wants to launch a broad debate about which circumstances, if any, might justify such exceptions.

For lower risk AI applications, the Commission envisages a voluntary labelling scheme if they apply higher standards.

All AI applications are welcome in the European market as long as they comply with EU rules.

In the data economy, the amount of data generated by businesses and public bodies is constantly growing. The next wave of industrial data will deeply transform the way we produce, consume and live. But most of its potential remains unfulfilled, says the Commission.

The objective of the European data strategy is to make sure the EU becomes a role model and a leader for a society empowered by data. For this, it aims at setting up a true European data space, a single market for data, to unlock unused data, allowing it to flow freely within the European Union and across sectors for the benefit of businesses, researchers and public administrations. Citizens, businesses and organisations would be empowered to make better decisions based on insights gleaned from non-personal data. That data would be available to all, whether public or private, start-up or giant.

To achieve this, the Commission will first propose to establish the right regulatory framework regarding data governance, access and reuse between businesses, between businesses and government, and within administrations. This entails creating incentives for data sharing, establishing practical, fair and clear rules on data access and use, which comply with European values and rights such as personal data protection, consumer protection and competition rules. It also means to make public sector data more widely available by opening up high-value datasets across the EU and allowing their reuse to innovate on top.

Second, the Commission aims at supporting the development of the technological systems and the next generation of infrastructures, which will enable the EU and all the actors to grasp the opportunities of the data economy. It will contribute to investments in European High Impact projects on European data spaces and trustworthy and energy efficient cloud infrastructures.

Finally, it will launch sectoral specific actions, to build European data spaces in for instance industrial manufacturing, the green deal, mobility or health.

The Commission says it will also work to further narrow the digital skills gap among Europeans, and explore how to give citizens better control over who can access their machine-generated data.

To further its plans, the Commission says it will present later this year a Digital Services Act and a European Democracy Action Plan, propose a review of the eIDAS regulation, and strengthen cybersecurity by developing a Joint Cyber Unit. Europe will also continue to build alliances with global partners, leveraging its regulatory power, capacity building, diplomacy and finance to promote the European digitalisation model.

The White Paper on Artificial Intelligence is now open for public consultation until 19 May 2020. In light of the input received, the Commission is expected to take further action to support the development of trustworthy AI and the data economy.

The shape of Europe's digital future - background guide

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