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EU Commission Releases Digital Strategy and AI White Paper

Starting in 2014, the EU Commission began taking steps towards the facilitation of the development of a data-agile economy. Some of these steps include regulation on free flow of non-personal data, the Open Data Directive, the Cybersecurity Act, and the GDPR. When it came to AI, the EU paid special attention to ethics and frameworks, with the establishment of the High-Level Expert Group on AI and its Ethics Guidelines on trustworthy AI released in April 2019.

On 19 February 2020 the EU took yet another important step forward by adopting a comprehensive package on digital policy. This policy included both a new data strategy and a white paper on Artificial Intelligence.

Europe has long held the goal of becoming a role model and leader for a society empowered by a responsible use of data. This initiative is the main goal of the new European Data Strategy, within which are various plans to take the EU into a data empowering future. Over the next five years, the Commission will focus on three key objectives:

  • Technology that works for people

  • A fair and competitive economy

  • An open, democratic and sustainable society

According to the strategy, the EU will set up a true European data space, essentially a single market for data, allowing the free-flow of data with the EU, benefiting businesses, researchers and public administrations alike. The purpose of the data single market is to empower citizens, businesses and organizations to make better, informed decisions based on the insight gathered from non-personal data - emphasis on non-personal and availability to all.

Continuing off of the data single market, the Commission also aims at supporting the development of technological systems, setting the opportunities for the next generation of infrastructures and so will invest in European High Impact projects. These projects will focus on European data spaces, and trustworthy and energy efficient cloud infrastructures. Europe will also fight to close the digital skills gap to help empower citizens and utilize digital to fight climate chance and achieve the green transition.

Above all, the EU emphasizes trustworthy technology that is human-centric.

The EU Commission stated in the White Paper that it envisages a framework for trustworthy AI that will be based on excellence and trust. In order to achieve this, the EU will work with Member States and the research community to build talent and trust.

Clear rules are needed, and the EU plans to issue rules for consumer protection, addressing unfair commercial practices, and protection of privacy in upcoming months. For high-risk AI applications, such as in health, policing or transport, the systems should be transparent, traceable and guarantee human oversight. Unbiased data is required to train these systems, and facial recognition is under debate if it will be allowed at all.

For low-risk AI applications, the Commission proposed a potential voluntary labeling system that allows companies to advertise their high standards for their AI applications.

Trustworthy and transparent AI will be at the heart of the EU, and all applications of AI will be welcomed in the European market if they comply with EU rules.

Next Steps

The EU Commission will present a Digital Services Act and European Democracy Action Plan later this year, propose a review of the eIDAS regulation, and develop a Joint Cyber Unit.

The AI White Paper is open for public consultation until 19 May 2020, as well as feedback on its data strategy.



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