Digital Brief: How to deal with a problem like Artificial Intelligence

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“GDPR includes provisions which could potentially hinder the development of data-driven, self-learning algorithmic systems.”

– S&D MEP Eva Kaili, August 27 2019.


Artificial Intelligence. Jumping straight back into the EU’s digital agenda for the coming mandate, we recently heard Greek MEP Eva Kaili’s thoughts on the big issues for the next five years.

She highlighted concerns that the EU’s data protection framework, the GDPR, could obstruct AI development on the bloc, saying that “if Article 22 of the GDPR is applied to AI tools, automated decision-making systems would be faced with regulatory backstops aimed at safeguarding the rights of data subjects.”

Helsinki talks. Staying with Artificial Intelligence, EU defence ministers are convening in Helsinki this week to discuss, amongst other things, the intersections between Artificial Intelligence and Defence. Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini is charing the talks, organised by the Finnish Ministry of Defence, while the country holds the Presidency of the EU Council.

As well as the opportunities in the AI and Defence field, ministers have also been discussing the ‘ethical and legal questions related to digitisation and AI.’  At the recently concluded G7 talks, leaders failed to agree on a joint position on global cooperation in artificial intelligence. According to Reuters, the US obstructed an agreement from being made.  Also at the G7 talks, President Macron announced on Monday that he had reached a “very good agreement” with US President Trump that will see tech giants pay Paris’s 3% levy until the OECD reaches an agreement on international corporate taxation, expected by the end of 2020.

Back in Brussels, the EU has been keen to take a stance against potentially ‘unethical’ implications of Artificial Intelligence, with new rules set to be introduced to prevent the “indiscriminate use of facial recognition technology” by firms, the Financial Times reported last week. Along this axis, the Swedish Data Protection Authority has fined a municipality 20,000 euros for using facial recognition technology to monitor the attendance of students in school – the first fine issued by the Swedish DPA, and indicative of how attitudes towards facial recognition may be coloured over the next five years in Europe.

On the subject of DPA fines, today Bulgarian Press reported that a 2.6 million euro fine will be issued to the National Revenue Agency (NRA), for a breach of personal data which affected around 5 million Bulgarians. The hack was revealed in July.

Commission Jobs latest. EURACTIV Czech’s Ondřej Plevák reports today that current Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova is eyeing one of the digital portfolios for the next Commission. Meanwhile, Estonia’s Commission nominee, Kadri Simson, has revealed that she had talks yesterday with Ursula von der Leyen but did not say which portfolio was offered to her  – only that it’s an ‘economy-related’ file. The Estonians are keen on holding onto one of the Digital portfolios, and rumours in Brussels are that she may be offered the Digital Society and Economy post.

Brexit. In other (unavoidable) news, we reported last week that almost half of the UK’s digital exports go to the European Union, as revealed by recently published UK government figures.

Staying with the UK, Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan UK said on Tuesday that the UK will decide by the autumn whether to grant Huawei involvement in the country’s future 5G infrastructure. This contrasts with a claim made by Huawei Founder Ren Zhengfei to EURACTIV recently when he told us that it’s “very likely Huawei products will be deployed in the UK’s core networks in the future.”

Italy ECC scandal. Another country hit by a recent political crisis, Italy was also under the spotlight recently, following the news reported by EURACTIV’s Gerardo Fortuna that the Commission will urgently contact the Italian authorities to better understand the lack of instant and accurate caller location of a French hiker found dead in Italy last week. Fortuna writes that geolocation for emergency calls is not enabled in Italy because the country has not yet deployed the Advanced-Mobile location (AML) system, set out in the European Electronic Communications Code.

Croatian Internet. EURACTIV Croatia’s Tea Trubić reported earlier this week that the Croatian Institute for Economy has published a survey which found that 21% of Croats have never used the Internet. Even in the business sector, only 73% of companies have an official website while only 27% of citizens do online shopping compared to the 50% EU average.

EU Cloud clout. Germany Economy Minister Peter Altmaier has announced plans to build a European cloud service under the name “Gaia-X.” The cloud industry in the EU is currently largely dominated by US corporations such as Amazon and this week, reports surfaced that Microsoft has begun to offer the cloud service Azure with local hosting in Berlin and Frankfurt.

Copyright. In other news, the Commission has released a call for applications for the first stakeholder meeting on the application of the copyright directive’s Article 17 upload filter clause on October 15, “to discuss best practices for cooperation between online content-sharing service providers and rightsholders.”


On My Radar

Next week, MEPs take up their committee seats in Brussels. One meeting I’ve got my eye on is DG Connect’s Director-General, Roberto Viola, making an appearance in the Culture and Education Committee on Wednesday.


What else I’m reading this week:


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