January saw further developments for the Council of Europe’s (CoE) work on legislative approaches to AI. On 15th January, the CoE Ad Hoc AI Committee (‘CAHAI’) met to discuss next steps for their work following the adoption of a ‘feasibility study’, which recommends the establishment of a legal instrument on the main principles for use of Artificial Intelligence (‘AI’) systems as a basis for relevant national legislation.
The study recommends that the CoE create binding or non-binding instruments addressing sectoral-specific AI challenges. The study also examines the feasibility of a legal framework for the development and deployment of AI based on the CoE’s standards for human rights. A key point the study outlines is that there is currently no existing international legal instrument explicitly developed to address the challenges posed by AI, with areas of concern regarding human rights protections, including sufficient human control and oversight of AI systems; the technical robustness of AI applications; and effective transparency and explainability.
On 20th January, the approach received further backing at a conference on the theme of human rights in the era of AI, with the German Presidency of the Committee of Ministers articulating its support for a binding horizontal legal framework with sector-specific legal instruments.
CAHAI working topics for 2021 will range from proposing a suitable model for an impact assessment of AI applications from the standpoint of human rights, rule of law and democracy to providing policy guidance on AI used in the public sector. The Secretariat will also outline ongoing CoE inter-governmental initiatives with AI in 2021, and potential initiatives for 2022-2023.
AI systems can be used in security and protection systems to help minimise the risk of harm to individuals, to the environment and even to other systems. At the same time, AI systems can also be used in a manner that harms individuals, societies and the environment. The prevention of harm is a fundamental principle that should be upheld, in both the individual and collective dimension, especially when such harm concerns the negative impact on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.