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EC publishes artificial intelligence guidelines

Report is intended as a starting point of an international discussion around trustworthy AI and its recommendations will be put to the test in a trial later this year

The European Commission (EC) has published a set of principles around the ethical application of artificial intelligence (AI) and has announced a major pilot in which the guidelines will be applied.

The EC’s Ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI report is the result of work carried out by a high-level expert group and is part of the EU’s AI strategy, announced in April last year. A draft set of recommendations was published in December 2018.

The principles will be put to the test in a pilot to be launched this summer, which will involve a large pool of stakeholders, the EC said.

Public and private sector organisations can sign up to the European AI Alliance and receive a notification when the pilot starts.

After the trial is concluded in early 2020, the EC will review its guidelines, building on the practical feedback received, evaluate the outcome and propose any next steps.

The report lists seven principles. The first concerns human agency and oversight, whereby AI systems should enable equitable societies by supporting human agency and fundamental rights, rather than decreasing, limiting or misguiding human autonomy.

The second principle relates to robustness and safety. Here, the EC states that trustworthy AI requires algorithms to be secure, reliable and robust enough to deal with errors or inconsistencies over their entire lifecycles.

Privacy and data governance is the third principle, whereby citizens should have full control over their own data, while data concerning them will not be used to harm or discriminate against them.

Transparency, where organisations ensure the traceability of AI systems, is the fourth principle. The fifth relates to diversity, non-discrimination and fairness of AI systems, which should consider all human abilities, skills and requirements, while ensuring accessibility.

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AI systems should be used to enhance societal and environmental wellbeing, according to the sixth principle of the AI guidelines.

The seventh principle concerns accountability. Here, mechanisms should be put in place to ensure responsibility and accountability for AI systems and their outcomes.

According to the EC, the guidelines are not intended re replace any form of current or future policymaking or regulation, or as a means to deter the introduction of rules in any country.

Rather, the commission wants the principles to be perceived as a starting point for a debate around trustworthy AI in Europe, as well as a means to foster research, reflection and discussion on an ethical framework for AI systems at a global level.

“The guidelines should be seen as a living document, to be reviewed and updated over time to ensure their continuous relevance as the technology, our social environments and our knowledge evolve,” the EC report said.

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