On September 22nd 2021, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), the Body that represents civil society organisations within the European Union, adopted Catelijne Muller’s Opinion on the EU Commission’s Artificial Intelligence Act (AIA) proposal. Catelijne Muller is an expert on AI regulation as she is a former member of the EU High-level Expert Group on AI, and an adviser to the Council of Europe on AI-related topics. She also acts as a rapporteur for the EESC opinion on Artificial intelligence and Society, and the EESC opinion on the AI Act.
This opinion, released in June 2021, highlights certain shortcomings contained in the AIA proposal. Indeed, it is critical vis-à-vis the capacity of the AIA to ensure that fundamental rights are guaranteed. In particular, the opinion advocates for an absolute ban of real-time biometric identification systems and underlines the risks that social scoring methods pose to fundamental rights.
Moreover, according to Catelijne Muller, the EU should “clarify the prohibitions regarding ‘subliminal techniques’ and ‘exploitation of vulnerabilities’ and also add ‘harm to fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law’ as conditions for these prohibitions”.
The opinion also highlights the absolute necessity for human beings to remain in command of an AI system, so that machines are not left to make decisions which can potentially harm people’s enjoyment of their fundamental rights.
From a more technical point of view, the Opinion argues that the first annex of the proposal should be removed as it creates some uncertainty as to the extent of the AI definition as “a number of the examples given in ANNEX I are not considered AI by AI scientists, and a number of important AI techniques are missing”. Furthermore, the Opinion also questions the relevance of the third annex. According to Catelijne Muller’s Opinion, the annex, which consists in drawing a High-risk AI technology list “can lead to the normalisation and mainstreaming of quite a number of AI practices that are still heavily criticised and for which the societal benefits are questionable or lacking”.
Even though the EESC opinion acknowledges that the Commission’s proposal is a step forward towards a comprehensive AI regulation which promotes human rights, democracy and the rule of law, it also emphasises that it is not a panacea and that some adjustments will need to be made in order to limit the risk that implementing AI may hinder people’s enjoyment of their fundamental rights.
OECD.AI, [Catelijne Muller : AI Expert – OECD.AI]