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European Union plans new rules around AI, data sharing

Social media platforms and artificial intelligence developers will face new regulations under a European Union plan published today.

The European Commission says its digital strategy is designed to make technology more people-focused, while also ensuring its digital industry is not reliant on other countries in the future.

It includes changes to the way data is treated by companies and organisations, with the bloc ultimately aiming to create a single market for data. 

This will put greater obligations on firms to make the data they hold accessible to others, which the commission says will give people more control over how their information is used.

It said that a small number of large technology firms currently hold the majority of the world’s data, but there were huge opportunities for Europe if this was made available to others.

The strategy also proposes a framework for the use of artificial intelligence, which would include a labeling scheme for trusted technology.

The commission said regulation around artificial intelligence would be risk-based, with products in areas like health and policing facing stricter rules than those used in consumer goods.

Meanwhile it also hopes to clarify rules around the use of facial recognition.

The EU says that remote systems that check people against a database are intrusive and – in principle – prohibited at present.

It says such technology carries “specific risks for fundamental rights”, and any use must have a substantial public interest.

Any other potential exceptions for its use will be considered as part of a “broad debate” on the matter, it said.

Meanwhile the bloc will seek to improve cyber-security, creating “ground rules” for authorities.

Improving the digital economy is one of two key goals of commission president Ursula von der Leyen, alongside the European Green Deal.

Tying in with that, the plan calls for digital centres in Europe to be carbon neutral by 2030.

The commission says it wants to make technology citizen-centred, while also ensuring a fair and competitive market that gives access to smaller firms.

It also wants to build digital capabilities within the EU, ultimately making it “technologically sovereign”.

Speaking at a news conference following the launch of the strategy, EU industry chief Thierry Breton referred to some of the online platforms that will be impacted by the rule changes.

“We see some platforms as gatekeepers, that is not what we want. We will have some ex ante regulations,” Mr Breton said.

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