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EU could force companies to share AI technology

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The EU should ensure that companies developing artificial intelligence (AI) share their technology with other firms to maintain a competitive market, a panel of experts has suggested.

The High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI HLEG) is a group of 52 experts from companies including Google and IBM that was set up by the European Commission (EC) last year.

Its new report could influence the policy decisions of the EU going forward with regards to AI.

The European Commission enlisted the experts’ help last year as part of its plan to deploy artificial intelligence (AI) across the bloc and help European companies catch up with rivals in Asia and the United States.

“As is the case with any technology, AI can be deployed both in a manner that increases human well-being and [also] that may lead to potential harm,” it writes in the report.

“Consider the introduction of a data access regime on FRAND terms, namely fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory. In addition, data interoperability amongst market players should be incentivised and required, where appropriate.”

An example of where a lack of data sharing has an impact on the competitiveness of AI can be seen in virtual assistants for smart homes and smartphones.

A study last year found that Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana were able to answer more questions and gave better answers than competitors such as Amazon's Alexa or Apple’s Siri.

This was largely attributed to the former’s access to vast amounts of user data harvested through their search platforms in comparison to Amazon, whose main focus is on retail, and Apple which has positioned itself as a privacy-oriented company.

In a market such as this, leading companies could become increasingly dominant as their services exponentially improve when they draw more users to the platform. Meanwhile, other firms would have a harder task competing against the top players.

The call comes amid a dispute between automaker Daimler, car parts company Valeo and Nokia on fair access to the Finnish company’s patents for self-driving vehicles.

The experts also warned against governments using AI systems to spy on individuals. China has been criticised by activists, scholars, foreign governments and UN rights experts over what they call mass detentions and strict surveillance of the mostly Muslim Uighur minority and other Muslim groups in Xinjiang.

“While there may be a strong temptation for governments to ‘secure society’ by building a pervasive surveillance system based on AI systems, this would be extremely dangerous if pushed to extreme levels,” the group said.

It said EU governments should commit not to engage in mass surveillance of individuals.

The experts also suggested developing AI tools to help civil society bodies and non-government organisations detect biases and undue prejudice in government decision-making.

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