Artificial intelligence must be fair and safe for consumers, say MEPs

By on 30/01/2020 | Updated on 24/09/2020
The Commission will soon present plans for a European approach to AI. (Photo courtesy: Jai79/Pixabay).

Consumers must be safeguarded from artificial intelligence (AI) and automated decision-making (ADM) which is “advancing at a remarkable pace”, says a European parliamentary committee.

A draft resolution, approved by the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) on 23 January, proposes that humans should always be ultimately responsible for, and able to overrule, decisions, especially in medical, legal and accounting contexts. It also sets out how to make use of the technology more transparent and accountable.

IMCO chair Petra De Sutter said the committee welcomed the potential of rapid advances in AI technology, but at the same time wanted to highlight important issues that needed to be addressed.

Equal importance

The resolution makes clear that while free-flowing data will be essential for the creation of innovative services, the importance of protecting personal data under GDPR, and of using only high-quality and unbiased data sets is equally important. AI can have a “significant impact” on consumers, the draft resolution states, “especially those in vulnerable situations”.

De Sutter said: “We have to make sure that consumer protection and trust is ensured, that the EU’s rules on safety and liability for products and services are fit for purpose in the digital age, and that the data sets used in automated decision-making systems are of high-quality and are unbiased.”

The MEPs recommend that consumers using an ADM system should be properly informed about how it functions, how to reach a human with decision-making powers, and about how the system’s decisions can be checked and corrected, the document says.

For the banking sector, the resolution states that there must be human oversight by qualified professionals in cases of automated decision-making where legitimate public interests are at stake.

The MEPs also stress that ADM technology must be adequately transparent in order for market surveillance authorities to be able to assess its safety. They suggest that the European Commission should assess if market surveillance authorities should be given extra rights for this purpose.

The draft resolution will soon be voted on by the full house before moving on to the EU Council and the Commission. The Commission is due to present its plans for a European approach to AI on 19 February 2020.

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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