Ethical AI laws to be outlined by new European Commission

Out-Law News | 02 Dec 2019 | 4:33 pm | 1 min. read

New legislation to support the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI) is to be set out by EU policy makers some time over the coming weeks.

New European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who was elected to the role last week, has committed to "put forward legislation for a coordinated European approach on the human and ethical implications of artificial intelligence" within her first 100 days in office.

The pledge is outlined in von der Leyen's agenda for her five year term in the role.

According to the new president's plan, the proposed new ethical AI legislation "should also look at how we can use big data for innovations that create wealth for our societies and our businesses".

"Following the Juncker Commission’s example, Ursula von der Leyen clearly wants the EU to be a regulatory pacesetter," said technology law expert Dr. Nils Rauer of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law. "With AI, however, one needs to take into consideration that this umbrella term contains a wide range of truly diverse designs and fields of application. Any type of legal regulation must therefore safeguard a technology-neutral and future-proof approach."

Research undertaken by Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, in partnership with Innovate Finance found that consumers are ready to embrace the use of AI in financial services, but that businesses need to make sure that they have implemented ethical processes to give their customers comfort. 

Christopher Woolard, the Financial Conduct Authority's executive director of strategy and competition, confirmed this summer that the regulator is to partner with the UK's Alan Turing Institute with the aim of providing financial services firms with greater clarity over the extent to which they need to explain to consumers how their AI tools work.

Under von der Leyen's leadership, the Commission will also embark on a number of other initiatives aimed at ensuring Europe is "fit for the digital age". Projects include the development of standards for 5G networks, and standards for other new technologies too, including blockchain, high-performance computing, quantum computing, algorithms and tools to allow data sharing and data usage.

Von der Leyen has also promised to establish a new Digital Services Act to "upgrade our liability and safety rules for digital platforms, services and products", and further pledged to improve cyber risk sharing across the EU through a new joint cyber unit.

A new "fair digital tax" will also be introduced within the EU if discussions at a global level do not identify a solution by the end of 2020, she said.