EU urges US to regulate AI.

EU urges US to regulate AI.

The Power Play Between the US and the EU in Regulating Tech Giants

The tech giants of the world may be based in the United States, but when it comes to regulating their activities, it is the European Union that wields the most influence. The EU’s effective control over the regulation of these tech giants has been facilitated by the lack of action from US lawmakers and business-friendly courts. At the center of this power play is Didier Reynders, the European Commissioner for Justice, responsible for crafting and enforcing laws across the 27-nation bloc.

In an interview with WIRED, Reynders expressed his frustration with the US’s lack of action in following up on proposals for stricter privacy laws. Despite hearing numerous suggestions from tech executives, whistleblowers, and members of Congress, Reynders believes there has been no real progress. While the US Federal Trade Commission has reached settlements with tech companies, Reynders argues that these lack the teeth of laws that allow for substantial fines or lawsuits. Enforcement, he asserts, is key in ensuring data protection and control.

Reynders fears history may repeat itself with the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI), as American lawmakers appear unlikely to pass new laws. He believes that a common approach between the US and the EU could pave the way for an international standard. However, if the US fails to match the EU’s forthcoming AI Act, it will be more challenging to hold tech giants accountable and implement industry-wide changes. With the US taking real action alongside the EU, the adoption of international standards becomes more feasible.

ChatGPT Caught in the Crosshairs

ChatGPT, an AI system developed by OpenAI, finds itself at the center of regulatory efforts concerning privacy and AI. OpenAI updated its privacy options and disclosures following a temporary block from the Italian data protection authority. However, a full investigation into the company’s compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is still ongoing. Reynders expects the EU to release common principles for dealing with ChatGPT by the end of the year. This could potentially necessitate further adjustments to the chatbot’s data collection and retention practices.

While Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, expressed support for new rules governing AI systems, he also voiced concerns about overregulation. Reynders, however, believes that AI rules should not be feared and that OpenAI’s mission aligns with the EU’s goal of developing new technologies for the greater good. Reynders also emphasizes the importance of open-source AI technologies, advocating for the release of text-generation models like those used in chatbots to spur innovation among startups and other entities.

Regulatory Concerns of Meta and Google

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has yet to launch its new social media app Threads in the EU due to regulatory concerns. Reynders jokingly suggests that with his services, Meta may finally be able to resolve these concerns and make the app available to EU citizens. Similarly, Google recently launched its chatbot Bard in Europe after ensuring compliance with GDPR regulations. Reynders emphasizes that having major services fully compliant with GDPR is a priority for the EU. While user-supplied data aids the training of AI systems, Reynders calls for transparency and limits on data retention.

Holding AI Developers Liable

Reynders proposes legislation that would allow individuals harmed by AI systems to seek compensation from technology developers. While the comprehensive regulations of the AI Act take precedence, Reynders believes the liability proposal cannot wait too long, as the outcome of the EU parliamentary elections next June could reshape priorities. Reynders intends to urge tech companies to voluntarily comply with yet-to-be-passed rules, such as the AI Act, and suggests measures such as watermarking images and videos generated through AI. He also calls for restrictions on chatbots answering sensitive questions and disclosure of hidden uses of AI.

Transatlantic Data Transfers and US Intrusions

Significant progress has been made regarding transatlantic data transfers between the EU and the US. Officials finalized an agreement allowing companies to store EU citizens’ data on US servers, with provisions to protect against US authorities accessing the data. Reynders emphasizes that storing data locally is not mandatory, as long as the required protection accompanies data transfers. Previous transfer agreements were rejected by the EU’s top court due to insufficient data protection against US authorities. Reynders hopes that the new agreement will withstand legal challenges and looks forward to positive outcomes.

Combatting Online Harassment and Simplifying Cookies

Reynders aims to update laws and enforcement policies to tackle common digital abuses more effectively. He is pushing for the criminalization of online harassment and abuse, particularly those targeting women, such as revenge porn and deepfake nudes. Simultaneously, Reynders recognizes the issue of “cookie fatigue,” where users face repeated consent requests for cookie usage when browsing the web. While the EU’s rules have led to a proliferation of notices, Reynders questions whether the system could be simplified, perhaps by seeking user consent only once. Discussions are underway on how browsers and websites can collaborate to achieve this goal.

Conclusion: Collaboration for Effective Regulation

Didier Reynders’ visit to the US underscores the importance of collaboration between the EU and the US in regulating tech giants and emerging technologies. By aligning regulatory approaches, an international standard can be established, ensuring data protection, accountability, and innovation. From addressing privacy concerns surrounding AI systems to combatting online harassment and simplifying cookie consent, Reynders is committed to creating a safer and more user-friendly digital landscape for all. Let us hope that his vision and efforts lead to tangible results for the benefit of both European and American citizens.