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European expert group publishes draft ethics guidelines for trustworthy artificial intelligence

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The High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI HLEG), which was appointed by the European Commission in June 2018, released the first draft of its Ethics Guidelines (December ’18) for the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI). In this document, the independent group of 52 experts coming from academia, business and civil society, sets out how developers and users can make sure AI respects fundamental rights, applicable regulation and core principles, and how the technology can be made technically robust and reliable.

The guidelines cover issues such as fairness, safety, transparency, accessibility, the future of work, democracy and more broadly the impact on the application of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, including privacy and personal data protection, dignity, consumer protection and non-discrimination. They aim at achieving trustworthy AI in Europe, based on two components: (1) that AI should respect fundamental rights, applicable regulation and core principles and values, ensuring an “ethical purpose” and (2) AI should be technically robust and reliable since, even with good intentions, a lack of technological mastery can cause unintentional harm.

Upon publication of the draft guidelines, Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said: “AI can bring major benefits to our societies, from helping diagnose and cure cancers to reducing energy consumption. But for people to accept and use AI-based systems, they need to trust them, know that their privacy is respected, that decisions are not biased. The work of the expert group is very important in this regard.

Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel added: “The use of artificial intelligence, like the use of all technology must always be aligned with our core values and uphold fundamental rights. The purpose of the ethics guidelines is to ensure this in practice. Since this challenge concerns all sectors of our society, it is important that everybody can comment and contribute to the work in progress.

The Guidelines were open for consultation until early February 2019. PROGRESSIVE partner, AGE Platform Europe, submitted a contribution in which they praise the approach adopted by the AI HLEG while reminding key concerns in relation to ageing such as the age bias of algorithms which are not really reflecting the complexity of the society or the complex question of robots in care settings. This contribution was also the opportunity to link up with the report released in 2017 by the UN Independent Expert on the rights of older people on robots and assistive technologies which is a key piece of work to better understand the impact of the technological development on the human rights of older persons.

In March 2019, the High-Level Expert Group will present their final guidelines to the Commission and work on regulatory and policy recommendations for AI. The Commission will analyse them and propose how to take this work forward. The ambition is then to bring Europe’s ethical approach to the global stage. The Commission is opening up cooperation to all non-EU countries that are willing to share the same values.

The Draft Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI can be found here.

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