White Paper on Artificial Intelligence – What does the European Union need AI for?

In February 2020, a document issued by the European Commission was published, called the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence. It concerns the use of artificial intelligence systems by Member States, their promotion, as well as the risks associated with their functioning, especially in the field of personal data. The main aim of the white paper was to outline the areas where artificial intelligence may prove most socially useful. More efficient health protection and modernization of public safety systems are just examples of how many amenities EU Member States can count on if they decide to implement AI (Artificial Intelligence) technologies in their domestic markets. The White Paper also emphasizes the role of public administration bodies in EU countries, which is responsible for the decision on admitting AI systems to specific areas of social life.

The document is based on two principles of key importance for the use of artificial intelligence: excellence and trust. The first relates to the project of a new public-private partnership outlined by the Commission, i.e. wider participation of private entities in new investments and setting research directions, with the public sector being responsible for the implementation of these technologies, e.g. in the field of health, transport and security. Thanks to the initiatives announced by the Commission, mainly small and medium-sized enterprises (including the so-called startups) are to receive EU funding for the purchase and production of AI innovations. Moreover, ultimately, in each Member State there should be at least one centre with a high level of specialization in a given field of artificial intelligence systems. On the other hand, the principle of trust is intended to reflect legal certainty, which seems to apply to both EU and national legislation.

The European Commission draws attention to the usefulness of artificial intelligence not only to individuals, but also to entire societies. On the one hand, thanks to the use of AI, it will be possible to meet the goals set by, for example, the Green Deal (which is the EU climate policy reform project), on the other hand, it is noted that the mass use of artificial intelligence carries many dangers, primarily potentially too far interference in the privacy of an individual . Therefore, in the White Paper, it advocates the strongest possible protection of fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, privacy and the protection of personal data.

In the opinion of the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) of June 2020, in which he responded to the principles of the White Paper, attention was drawn to the need to consider broader safeguards in the context of personal data protection. In line with the recommendations of the EDPS, it is necessary to implement a system for mitigating the damage caused by AI technologies and to avoid overlapping competences of supervisory authorities in this regard.

Importantly, the EDPS agrees with the Commission’s proposal to introduce a mandatory moratorium on the use of automatic recognition of biometric data (and therefore not only the facial image). This would limit the freedom of Member States to use overly stringent forms of controlling the lives of citizens. In the opinion of the Supervisor, it is the responsibility of states to adapt their domestic law to limit the use of artificial intelligence by state authorities in a way that is disproportionate and undesirable to citizens.