MEPs lobby for European rules governing use of artificial intelligence

Out-Law News | 27 Oct 2020 | 2:09 pm | 2 min. read

The European Parliament has adopted three sets of proposed rules for the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI), with the aim of improving innovation, ethical standards and trust in technology.

The proposals, put forward by members of the European Parliament (MEPs) include a draft legal framework outlining the ethical principles and legal obligations to be followed when developing, deploying and using AI.

MEPs also put forward a civil liability framework which would make those operating high-risk AI technologies liable for any resulting damage, and an intellectual property (IP) rights system and safeguards for the EU’s patent system to protect innovative developers.

Fintech expert Luke Scanlon of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said the adoption of the proposals by MEPs showed that the list of issues which were likely to be addressed by future AI legislation had become clearer.

“Amongst the key issues to be addressed include developments relating to the need for human-centric AI controls, transparency, safeguards against bias and discrimination, privacy and data protection, liability and intellectual property,” Scanlon said.

“However, there remains significant divergence amongst the different approaches that are being put forward in terms of the detail. As legislation governing AI will have a significant impact on financial institutions and services providers, there is good reason for legal and policy teams to engage with EU stakeholders in this process and help shape future rules which enable businesses to benefit from the use of AI technologies in a way that appropriately protects the interests of investors and consumers,” Scanlon said.

The texts said it was important to harmonise the digital single market and that common rules governing the use of AI should be made through an EU regulation. As technology was developing quickly, they noted that current rules were unlikely to be fit for purpose.

The proposal focusing on ethics suggested that future laws around AI should be made in accordance with several guiding principles, including: a human-centric and human-made AI; safety, transparency and accountability; safeguards against bias and discrimination; right to redress; social and environmental responsibility; and respect for privacy and data protection.

It suggested that high-risk AI technologies, such as those with self-learning capacities, should be designed to allow for human oversight at any time, with the ability to restore full human control if a functionality is used that would result in a serious breach of ethical principles.

Connected to this, the proposed civil liability framework would apply to physical or virtual AI activity that harmed or damaged life, health, physical integrity, property, or that resulted in “verifiable economic loss”.

MEPs suggested that the operators of high-risk AI technology should hold insurance similar to that used for motor vehicles.

The third proposal said an IP rights system should protect innovation, but not come at the expense of human creators’ interests or EU ethical principles.

IP rights should only be granted to humans, according to the text, which also discusses issues such as copyright, data collection, trade secrets, the use of algorithms and deep fakes.

The recommendations by MEPs will be followed with a legislative proposal from the European Commission, which is set to be published in early 2021.