On 19 February 2020, the new European Commission published two Communications relating to its five-year digital strategy: one on shaping Europe’s digital future, and one on its European strategy for data (the Commission also published a white paper proposing its strategy on AI; see our previous blogs here and here).  In both Communications, the Commission sets out a vision of the EU powered by digital solutions that are strongly rooted in European values and EU fundamental rights.  Both Communications also emphasize the intent to strengthen “European technological sovereignty”, which in the Commission’s view will enable the EU to define its own rules and values in the digital age.  The Communications set out the Commission’s plans to achieve this vision.

Continue Reading AI Update: European Commission’s plans on data and Europe’s digital future (Part 3 of 4)

The European Commission, as part of the launch of its digital strategy for the next five years, published on 19 February 2020 a White Paper On Artificial Intelligence – A European approach to excellence and trust (the “White Paper”).  (See our previous blog here for a summary of all four of the main papers published by the Commission.)  The White Paper recognizes the opportunities AI presents to Europe’s digital economy, and presents the Commission’s vision for a coordinated approach to promoting the uptake of AI in the EU and addressing the risks associated with certain uses of AI.  The White Paper is open for public consultation until 19 May 2020.

Continue Reading AI Update: European Commission’s White Paper on Artificial Intelligence (Part 2 of 4)

On 19 February 2020, the European Commission presented its long-awaited strategies for data and AI.  These follow Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s commitment upon taking office to put forward legislative proposals for a “coordinated European approach to the human and ethical implications of AI” within the new Commission’s first 100 days.  Although the papers published this week do not set out a comprehensive EU legal framework for AI, they do give a clear indication of the Commission’s key priorities and anticipated next steps.

The Commission strategies are set out in four separate papers—two on AI, and one each on Europe’s digital future and the data economy.  Read together, it is clear that the Commission seeks to position the EU as a digital leader, both in terms of trustworthy AI and the wider data economy.

Continue Reading AI Update: European Commission Presents Strategies for Data and AI (Part 1 of 4)

On January 23, 2020, the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee approved a resolution on artificial intelligence (“AI”) and automated decision-making (“ADM”). The resolution references several major pieces of work carried out by the European Commission on AI and provides a list of existing EU instruments that are relevant to AI and ADM — which together present a potential roadmap of areas of reform.

The resolution was approved in committee by 39 votes in favor, none against and four abstentions. It will next be voted on by the full Parliament in an upcoming plenary session. If adopted, it will be transmitted to the EU Council and the Commission for consideration. The Commission’s Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager is expected to present plans for a European approach to AI in a Commission meeting on February 19, 2020.

Continue Reading AI Update: European Parliament Committee Approves Resolution on AI for Consumers

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) has issued and is consulting on draft guidance about explaining decisions made by AI.  The ICO prepared the guidance with The Alan Turing Institute, which is the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.  Among other things, the guidance sets out key principles to follow and steps to take when explaining AI-assisted decisions — including in relation to different types of AI algorithms — and the policies and procedures that organizations should consider putting in place.

The draft guidance builds upon the ICO’s previous work in this area, including its AI Auditing Framework, June 2019 Project ExplAIN interim report, and September 2017 paper ‘Big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data protection’.  (Previous blog posts that track this issue are available here.)  Elements of the new draft guidance touch on points that go beyond narrow GDPR requirements, such as AI ethics (see, in particular, the recommendation to provide explanations of the fairness or societal impacts of AI systems).  Other sections of the guidance are quite technical; for example, the ICO provides its own analysis of the possible uses and interpretability of eleven specific types of AI algorithms.

Organizations that develop, test or deploy AI decision-making systems should review the draft guidance and consider responding to the consultation. The consultation is open until January 24, 2020.  A final version is expected to be published later next year.

Continue Reading UK ICO and The Alan Turing Insitute Issue Draft Guidance on Explaining Decisions Made by AI

On December 3, 2019, the EU’s new Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, suggested a change of approach to the proposed e-Privacy Regulation may be necessary.  At a meeting of the Telecoms Council, Breton indicated that the Commission would likely develop a new proposal, following the Council’s rejection of a compromise text on November 27.

The proposed Regulation is intended as a replacement to the existing e-Privacy Directive, which sets out specific rules for traditional telecoms companies, in particular requiring that they keep communications data confidential and free from interference (e.g., preventing wiretapping).  It also sets out rules that apply regardless of whether a company provides telecoms services, including restrictions on unsolicited direct marketing and on accessing or storing information on users’ devices (e.g., through the use of cookies and other tracking technologies).

Continue Reading New E-Privacy Proposal on the Horizon?

On 19 September 2019, the European Parliamentary Research Service (“EPRS”)—the European Parliament’s in-house research service—released a briefing paper that summarizes the current status of the EU’s approach to developing a regulatory framework for ethical AI.  Although not a policymaking body, the EPRS can provide useful insights into the direction of EU policy on an issue.  The paper summarises recent calls in the EU for adopting legally binding instruments to regulate AI, in particular to set common rules on AI transparency, set common requirements for fundamental rights impact assessments, and provide an adequate legal framework for facial recognition technology.

The briefing paper follows publication of the European Commission’s high-level expert group’s Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (the “Guidelines”), and the announcement by incoming Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that she will put forward legislative proposals for a “coordinated European approach to the human and ethical implications of AI” within her first 100 days in office.

Continue Reading European Parliamentary Research Service issues a briefing paper on implementing EU’s ethical guidelines on AI

On July 24, 2019, the European Parliament published a study entitled “Blockchain and the General Data Protection Regulation: Can distributed ledgers be squared with European data protection law?”  The study explores the tension between blockchain technology and compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (the “GDPR”), the EU’s data protection law.  The study also explores how blockchain technology can be used as a tool to assist with GDPR compliance.  Finally, it recommends the adoption of certain policies to address the tension between blockchain and the GDPR, to ensure that “innovation is not stifled and remains responsible”.  This blog post highlights some of the key findings in the study and provides a summary of the recommended policy options.

Continue Reading European Parliament Publishes Study on Blockchain and the GDPR

On July 29, 2019, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) handed down its judgment in the Fashion ID case (Case C-40/17).   The CJEU found that when a website operator embeds Facebook’s “Like” button on its website, Facebook and the website operator become joint controllers. The case clarifies the relationship between website operators and social networking sites whose plug-ins are embedded into websites for user tracking and online marketing purposes.  The ruling is expected to influence the contractual terms that companies will need to have in place when embedding such social plug-ins to their websites, and may also have ramifications for adtech practices more generally.

Continue Reading CJEU rules that Facebook and website operators are joint controllers if the website embeds Facebook’s “Like” button

On June 20, 2019, Keith Krach was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become the Trump administration’s first permanent Privacy Shield Ombudsperson at the State Department.  The role of the Privacy Shield Ombudsperson is to act as an additional redress avenue for all EU data subjects whose data is transferred from the EU or Switzerland to the U.S. under the EU-U.S. and the Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework, respectively.

Continue Reading Privacy Shield Ombudsperson Confirmed by the Senate