The European Union has been focused on creating new rules limiting the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and video surveillance on what it deems as ‘high-risk’ usage. This legislation, if enacted into law, would be the first of its kind and will affect business for a multitude of companies in Europe and those who do business with EU countries. Its affects are not limited to just the security and surveillance industry. So much of modern business innovation and success is built upon the information gathered from artificial intelligence technology. The EU has made exceptions to limiting the use of artificial intelligence, but there will likely be negative impacts from reducing its reach on the European economy and the growth of new businesses in that region.
One of the key driving factors of the legislation is to curb what the European Parliament deems to be the intrusive aspects of AI surveillance such as powerful facial recognition technology (which combines video surveillance cameras, computer vision, and predictive imaging), and the eroding of ordinary citizens privacy. According to Politico, the European Union “…doesn't want to leave powerful tech companies to their own devices like in the U.S., nor does it want to go by the way of China in harnessing the tech to fashion a surveillance state. Instead, the bloc says it wants a "human-centric" approach that both boosts the tech, but also keeps it from threatening its strict privacy laws.”
Furthermore, the EU wants to avoid the use of technology that can manipulate people’s opinions, entice them to take certain decisions, and exploit people’s vulnerabilities. As well, the EU wants to eliminate racial biases, which can be magnified by AI surveillance. It does not want to live in a society where AI assigns everyone a ‘social score’ based on what information has been gathered on them.
Consequences of violating this legislation in the EU will be very harsh. If companies are found in violation, they could be fined up to €20 Million or 4% of their turnover.
Even with these proposed restrictions, it doesn’t mean that the EU wants AI to disappear altogether as there are some areas where AI is still welcomed. The EU has allowed exemptions for matters relating to European security such as the continued use of AI on CCTV cameras for terrorism incidents and to help in criminal investigations. Countries such as France that have been strongly in favour of AI surveillance due to how negatively affected it has been by terrorism. As well, AI is permitted to increase energy grid efficiency, helping to model climate change, and streamline manufacturing.
There is also the matter of who defines "high risk" AI and how it is defined. There are many privacy experts believe that this proposed legislation doesn't sort out the imbalance of power between who creates and applies AI to who it focuses on. When we think about who AI surveillance is meant for, Cloudastructure does not employ 'Big Brother' tactics in its video surveillance technology. Read this post to learn more about how we safely apply surveillance systems at a California University.
If this legislation is enacted into law, many experts believe it will negatively impact Europe, regardless of any privacy gains. For instance, the compliance burdens for companies in the EU are expected to negatively impact the European economy, costing what a CNBC article estimates to be €31 Billion Euros over the next 5 years. There are also reports that the level of innovation will be stifled, reducing the number of successful start-ups from the continent. This will affect the ability of AI security providers being able to gain new business in Europe.
Companies that depend on AI technology will face a competitive disadvantage compared to other countries around the world such as the United States and China, where restrictions on AI technology do not exist. Many large companies such as Google and Apple already use AI technology. This will force many companies to look elsewhere than Europe to do business where this technology is permitted to create a successful business. Until the legislation is voted on and approved, businesses that use AI surveillance will be holding their collective breaths.