With over 500 million population, copious cutting-edge innovations, and account for 25% of Facebook and Google’s revenues, Europe is a large piece of pie for the technology world. Interestingly, there is also a notable absent of prominent digital platforms within the continent and it contributes not more than 4% of market capitalization of the world’s 70 largest platforms. The contrast makes it challenging for tech tycoons to cost-effectively offer services that are different beyond the EU, hence most of them chose to adopt what’s already made available on the table.
Modelling AI regulations after GDPR
For example, close to 120 countries have now enforced their own data privacy and protection laws; most of them look upon Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as the holy grail. The European Commission was quick to notice and they wish to replicate the move in other areas. A series of documents, were thus, revealed on 19 February in lieu of the special European Summit in Brussels.
One of which is a white paper on artificial intelligence (AI) with measures on how AI should be effectively deployed within Europe and strategies which facilitate data usage and sharing. At the moment, the European Commission is keen on conjuring a “single data space” so that digital information can travel openly and securely within the region. This cannot be done without substantial investments on cloud services and knocking down strict laws that hinder data democratization.
As the year goes, the Commission will be delivering a draft of the “Digital Services Act”. This shall dictate how tech companies would control user-generated content and limit how their services are being employed by rivals via competition policy. Not much details have been released at the moment. Nevertheless, Germany expressed a heavier emphasis will be put on data as it will also be a determinant if a company had abused its market dominance.
Colloquially, the industry has conveniently parked this new and rather ambitious plan as part of the “Brussels effect”; something which the American tech giants are lobbying on to influence AI regulations and strategies at home. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, to Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of Alphabet and Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, have all made separate trips to Brussels recently. Some believe this is a sign that AI regulatory plans put forward by the European Commission are heading towards a similar success as GDPR.
AI poses unique regulatory challenges
However, because privacy has been debated long before the GDPR while AI is still a regulatory newbie; it remains a question whether the Brussels effect will work within the Commission’s expectations. In fact, some experts are debating what AI is and what should it encompass. Besides, all along the Commission shows a preference towards stricter regulations.
All these may still direct some of the tech giants to take a different approach towards their European market or in the worst case scenario, the European AI strategy may become protectionist. If that’s the case, this will not only restrict Europe’s digital development but also its influence on the world map.