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EU proposes strict AI regulation akin to laws governing cars and toys

The EU is proposing the imposition of heavier regulations on the use of AI that would see strict rules and safeguarding measures apply to use of the technology.

In a discussion paper it considers the creation of a framework that governs how AI is used, especially in high-risk sectors such as healthcare, transport and policing.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen had ordered her top deputies to come up with a co-ordinated European approach to AI and data strategy 100 days after she took office in December.

“We will be particularly careful where essential human rights and interests are at stake,” von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels.

“Artificial intelligence must serve people, and therefore artificial intelligence must always comply with people’s rights.”

In the future AI systems could come with labels certifying that they are in line with EU standards.

While the technology can be used to improve healthcare, make farming more efficient or combat climate change, it also brings risks such as “opaque decision-making, gender-based or other discrimination, privacy intrusion or being used for criminal purposes”, the report said.

Human-centred guidelines for AI are essential because “none of the positive things will be achieved if we distrust the technology”, added Margrethe Vestager, the executive vice president overseeing the EU’s digital strategy (pictured left).

The report is part of the bloc’s wider digital strategy aimed at maintaining its position as the global pacesetter on technological standards.

Technology companies seeking to tap Europe’s vast and lucrative market, including those from the US and China, would have to play by any new rules that eventually come into force.

Under the proposals, which are open for public consultation until 19 May, EU authorities want to be able to test and certify the data used by the algorithms that power AI in the same way they check cosmetics, cars and toys.

EU leaders also said they wanted to open a debate on when to allow facial recognition in remote identification systems, which are used to scan crowds to check people’s faces against those on a database. Last month the EU considered banning facial recognition for up to five years as it considers how the technology can be used ethically.

Other elements in the Commission's proposals include new rules covering cross-border data use, data interoperability and standards for manufacturing, climate change, the auto industry, healthcare, financial services, agriculture and energy.

One possibly controversial proposal calls for doing away with EU rules against anti-competitive data sharing.

There is also a goal for data centres to be climate-neutral by 2030.

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