EU Rights Agency Warns Against Blind Adoption of AI

As part of a new report issued this week, the Vienna-based EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) urged policymakers to provide more guidance on how existing rules apply to AI and to ensure that future AI laws protect fundamental rights.

The 108-page report is the result of more than 100 interviews with officials from public and private organizations, including a diverse range of experts that include lawyers working in the AI field.

Understanding the impact of AI

It called out the potentially discriminatory effects of AI and for the EU to clarify how data protection rules apply to the technology.

The report investigated the impact of AI on these rights, focusing on the use of AI in four areas: social benefits, predictive policing, medical diagnoses, and targeted advertising.

According to the report, awareness of potential rights implications is lacking, with rights such as human dignity, access to justice, and consumer protection at risk. And roping in developers to review the impact of AI systems doesn’t help, as they tend to focus only on the technical aspects.

People should also be able to seek remedies when something goes awry, which means they must know when AI is being used. This requires organizations to be able to explain their AI systems and how they deliver decisions based on them – and makes the hiring of staff with relevant technical expertise key.

And while AI is still in its infancy, AI technology is moving quicker than the law. This calls for action sooner rather than later.

“We need to seize the chance now to ensure that the future EU regulatory framework for AI is firmly grounded in respect for human and fundamental rights,” wrote FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty.

“AI is not infallible; it is made by people – and humans can make mistakes. That is why people need to be aware when AI is used, how it works, and how to challenge automated decisions,” said O’Flaherty in a statement.

A global impact

Though the interviews were carried out in Estonia, Finland, France, the Netherlands, and Spain, the findings have an impact on Asia, too.

According to a report from the MIT Technology Review last year, AI will impact one in five jobs in Asia by 2024. It will eliminate one in eight jobs but will also be a major growth driver in the coming decade – enhancing customer satisfaction, speeding up decision-making, and reducing inefficiencies.

It hence makes sense that more thought is given to the long-term impact of AI, and appropriate legal frameworks drawn up to protect both rights and privacy.

The full report can be downloaded here (pdf).

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