In March 2019 the European Commission intends to finalise AI Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (AI). The EU Commission’s High Level Expert Group published draft ethics guidelines in December 2018 and stakeholders had until 18 January 2019 to provide feedback.

The Guidelines are addressed to those involved in the design, development and deployment of AI systems in the EU. Whilst not legally binding, the final version of the Guidelines will include a mechanism to allow stakeholders to voluntarily endorse them. The Guidelines are also not intended to be a substitute for any form of policymaking or regulation, which will be dealt with through the Commission’s “Policy and Investment Recommendations” due in May 2019.

The Guidelines follow the Commission issuing a coordinated plan in December 2018 with Member States to foster the development and use of AI in the EU. They provide a first step towards achieving certain aspects of the coordinated plan.

The Guidelines set out a framework for Trustworthy AI and comprises three chapters:

  • Chapter I – setting out fundamental rights, principles and values with which AI should comply
  • Chapter II – providing a list of requirements for Trustworthy AI alongside an overview of technical and non-technical methods that can be used for its implementation
  • Chapter III – setting out a non-exhaustive assessment list for Trustworthy AI

The Guidelines acknowledge that AI presents a good opportunity to increase prosperity and growth – with major advances having been realised over the last decade due to the availability of vast amounts of digitised data, powerful computing architectures and advances in AI techniques such as machine learning. However, AI also gives rise to certain risks that need to be properly managed.

The Guidelines therefore advocate the need for a “human centric” approach to AI; in particular an ethical approach to AI is seen as a key to enable responsible competitiveness, to generate user trust and facilitate broader uptake of AI. The Guidelines go on to state “these Guidelines are not meant to stifle AI innovation in Europe, but instead aim to use ethics as inspiration to develop a unique brand of AI…this allows Europe to position itself as a leader in cutting-edge, secure and ethical AI. Only by ensuring trustworthiness will European citizens fully reap AI’s benefits.”

We will continue to monitor the consultation process and provide a separate update once the draft guidelines have been finalised.