Currently, Brussels is focussing very much on digitalization. On 19 February 2020, the Commission published no fewer than three documents, which deal with the wide range of challenges of an increasingly digitalized society. Their focus was on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the EU’s digital future.
Under the header “Shaping Europe’s digital future”, the EU Commission presented a Communication on 19 February 2020, which in general is to pursue three targets: firstly, a technology that works for the people, secondly a fair and competitive economy and thirdly, an open, democratic and sustainable society.
For example, the Commission sees a need to take action in respect of online platforms. It was important to promote and to protect platform workers. Apart from that, the European Union rules of competition are adjusted to the challenges of a world, which is “changing fast, is increasingly digital and must become greener”. The main aim is to counter the sometimes unfair practices of various online corporations. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is responsible for the digitalization sector, is, not least due to the actions brought against Google und Apple, initiated by her, frequently called the opponent of these online corporations.
At the request of the Commission, concrete results regarding the taxation of internet corporations should also be available soon. After the plans of an EU-wide digital tax had been blocked by a handful of Member States - among them Ireland - because these feared a competitive disadvantage for the business location Europe, the search for a solution is now on at OECD level. Apart from that, establishing a comprehensive 5G network is now a major task. This is in particular concerned with the importance of 5G corridors for the area of automated and networked mobility.
The Commission believes that the formula for success concerning the digital change lies in effective framework conditions, which are to strengthen the trust of citizens as well as promoting the willingness of companies to engage in digitalization. In addition, the Commission relies on greater cooperation between the public and the private sector. Furthermore, digital transformation is also regarded as the key element to achieve the targets of the European Green Deal.
White Paper Artificial Intelligence
On the same day, the Commission presented a White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, which should serve as the basis for a 12-week consultation process at European level. The EU Parliament had already in advance asked the Commission in a Resolution to ensure that the rights of citizens and consumers will be safeguarded both in connection with using Artificial Intelligence as well as in respect of automated decision-making processes.
In its White Paper, the Commission proposes to focus on so-called “high risk” applications with regard to possible regulations. However, only those would be regarded as “high risk” applications, which are used in particular sensible areas - for example healthcare, transport, energy or parts of the public sector - and might have potentially particularly serious effects - for example, concerning legal consequences, injury risks or significant (im)material damages.
The regulations considered by the Commission concern six different topics, for example the documentation of used data, its use for “teaching” AI systems or precise information on these systems and their application. However, the option of a temporary ban on face recognition technologies, which was originally mentioned in a leak of the White Paper, was scrapped. Instead, reference in this context was made to existing regulations within the scope of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). According to Vestager the use of such technology would fundamentally infringe against the GDPR and against the obligation to obtain agreement contained therein.
“The battle for industrial data starts now, and the main battlefield will be Europe.”
In order to strengthen its own position regarding the use of Artificial Intelligence and other new technologies, such as the “Internet of Things”, the Commission plans to establish a sovereign European data room within the scope of a ”European strategy for data”. This strategy shall create a legal framework for the joint management of data, thereby providing clarification as to what kind of data can be used when. The cross-border use of data shall also be made easier. This was of particular importance because data serve as the “fuel” of Artificial Intelligence. The volume of globally processed data would have massively increased by 2025. By that time, data would also increasingly be stored in a decentralised manner, for example in “linked smart objects”. Hence, it was the target of the Commission to increase the share of data stored and processed in Europe by 2030 in the same way as the share in global data management. According to Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, the strategy above all would concentrate on data generated by companies.