My Europe to me: “The EU must regulate AI to avoid falling into a surveillance society”

Ahead of the Conference on the Future of Europe, where citizens of the European Union (EU) are invited to imagine and build the future of the bloc, Slate is launching the project “My Europe to me”. The objective: to give a voice to young French and Europeans, identify their expectations and demands, and get specialists and members of Parliament to react to them.

Is the European Union becoming the policeman of the internet? In any case, this is the ambition displayed by the European Commission for several years. Between the Digital Market Actpresented last March, which will force Apple and Google to open up their smartphone ecosystems to competitors, and the copyright guidelinethe EU seems to want to compensate for the absence of European GAFAs, the latter being mainly American or Chinese, by deciding on the rules that govern the web.

A policy that delights Marceau Perret, a 24-year-old master’s student in geopolitics in Paris. The young man “discovered the EU a bit late”to favor “of a civic service at the house of Europe”and considers that the European level is the only “which can respond to certain major global challenges, such as cyber defense”.

Interested in digital issues, and the protection of online privacy, Marceau welcomes the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018, which gave European citizens more control over the use of their data. “It’s something unique in the world, it’s a very good thing”points out the student to Slate.

If the influence of the EU on the internet goes well beyond its borders, Marceau hopes to see the creation of a “true global internet governance” for “put in place common rules on which we all agree”. Above all, the student is concerned about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) by governments as part of a policy of mass surveillance, as in China. From this follows this request vis-à-vis the EU:

“I would like the EU to put in place rules to regulate AI and avoid falling into a surveillance society.”

Marceau Perret, student

To understand European policy on online regulation, and what the EU can do to better protect its citizens, Slate spoke with Patrick Breyer, German MEP from the Pirate Party. What are the prerogatives of the EU in terms of private data online?

Patrick Breyer: Overall, the notion of fundamental rights guaranteed by EU law applies online and offline. We have the right to freedom of expression, but also to the protection of our privacy, in real life and on the web.

The EU acts on different things: I can quote theAnti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACAC), which strengthens intellectual property rights at the global level, but also the reform of online private copying and decisions that guarantee web neutrality. The EU has thus put in place rules that guarantee the same level of connection for everyone.

But there are also examples of bad legislation, such as the regulation of online terrorism.

Precisely, one of the great advances of recent years is the GDPR. Is it a success?

Yes, it is a huge success for the EU. GDPR has become a standard for data protection. It was an unprecedented rule, which was copied in other parts of the world. This rule ensures that our data is not shared without our consent and is protected against misuse.

One of the most controversial provisions concerns the transfer of data to other countries, such as the United States. The GDPR also protects us on this subject, and means that Facebook, for example, has servers on European soil. This regulation is a real success, in particular thanks to the European Parliament which fought for a strong and ambitious text.

“We also fight against the use of AI to identify people, or their attitude, in public space.”

Patrick Breyer, German Pirate Party MEP

The EU is trying to position itself as a web policeman. Does the strategy work?

Overall, the EU is well placed, it is even our duty, to lead the online digital world to come to terms with our rights and our values. Internet is used by big companies to censor, to make profit… We have to answer these problems. And I think fundamental rights are pretty well protected here.

There remains the question of what EU governments are doing to regulate digital issues, and there it is not always positive. We must fight these tendencies; we see, for example, that some governments want to use mass surveillance tools…

Exactly, Marceau wants the EU to do more to regulate AI. Do you agree?

Yes. In reality, these artificial intelligence systems are often just nasty, silly statistics; they are used to make decisions or make proposals. But because of certain biases, AI can discriminate, especially for marginalized groups. Something has to be done about it.

We also fight against the use of AI to identify people, or their attitude, in the public space. This is done in China, where the police are directly alerted. This can have an effect on civil liberties, where people would be placed under permanent surveillance and be reluctant to discuss certain topics or act in certain ways. This is why we are fighting for a ban on biometric surveillance be integrated into the future AI directive.

Where can the EU improve its action?

Much remains to be done regarding digital participation in democratic decisions. The Internet offers us many opportunities to better inform citizens and involve them. We must use this tool, many negotiations still take place behind closed doors at European level. It would be easy to allow citizens to comment on draft legislation, for example.

There are big differences between the twenty-seven EU countries in terms of access to a fixed internet connection. Is the EU doing enough on this subject?

I think the EU is doing a lot on the subject; by law, citizens have the right to fast internet access. But the implementation of this right by the Member States is insufficient. In some places, you have to rely on 4G because landlines aren’t fast enough. There is the issue of roaming rights, which have been abolished in the EUbut which are not well implemented in some Member States.

You too can make your voice heard at the Conference on the Future of Europe! Register on the dedicated platform and participate in the discussion. Let people know which Europe you want to live in and help shape our future!

The project was co-funded by the European Union under the European Parliament’s grant program in the field of communication. The European Parliament has not been involved in its preparation and is in no way responsible for or bound by the information, information or views expressed within the framework of the project for which only the authors, persons interviewed, the publishers or broadcasters of the program are liable in accordance with applicable law. Nor can the European Parliament be held liable for any damage, direct or indirect, which may result from carrying out the project.

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My Europe to me: “The EU must regulate AI to avoid falling into a surveillance society”

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