EU mulls liability laws for AI systems, paving the way for compensation claims

EU mulls liability laws for AI systems, paving the way for compensation claims

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The European Union’s executive commission has proposed new legislation that would make it easier for European citizens to sue companies in the event of harm caused to them by artificial intelligence technology.

The AI Liability Directive proposed Wednesday has several aims, the main one being to update product liability laws to cover machine learning systems. It also aims to lower the burden of proof required for people to claim compensation as a result of injury caused by AI.

Provided that someone can prove that an AI system caused them harm, it should therefore make it much easier for them to claim compensation. The legislation doesn’t only pertain to physical injury, but also other kinds of harm. So, if people believe that an AI system has discriminated against them, that could also be grounds for compensation. For instance, if an AI-based mortgage application tool or recruitment software unfairly rejects them, they could well have a case.

In addition to compensation claims, the AI Liability Directive would also give Europeans the right to demand details of how an organization uses AI to aid compensation claims. That said, businesses will also be able to show that no harm was done by their AI systems and argue against giving up sensitive data used to train them, if it includes trade secrets.

Furthermore, the new legislation is designed to provide companies with clearer guidance about the rules and regulations on AI liability, so they know the kinds of claims they might face if they decided to deploy the technology. It’s hoped that this will provide more stability and encourage the rollout of AI technologies, rather than discouraging it.

“We want the AI technologies to thrive in the EU,” said Věra Jourová, vice-president for values and transparency at the European Commission. “For this to happen, people need to trust digital innovations. With today’s proposal on AI civil liability we give customers tools for remedies in case of damage caused by AI so that they have the same level of protection as with traditional technologies and we ensure legal certainty for our internal market.”

There’s a long way to go before the AI Liability Directive is signed into law. At this stage it is a mere proposal, which means it has to be debated and edited, voted upon, and then — if passed — rubber-stamped by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. Only then would it become law.

The proposed legislation would apply to any kind of damage covered by national laws. It also would aid compensation claims against anyone found to have “influenced the AI system which caused the damage,” according to an FAQ page on the new laws.

“While considering the huge potential of new technologies, we must always ensure the safety of consumers,” said Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders. “Proper standards of protection for EU citizens are the basis for consumer trust and therefore successful innovation. New technologies like drones or delivery services operated by AI can only work when consumers feel safe and protected. Today, we propose modern liability rules that will do just that.”

Photo: dimitrisvetsikas1969/Pixabay

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