Germany Recommends More Guidelines for AI Development

Last week a government panel in Germany said businesses are free to develop tools for artificial intelligence but also must weigh a variety of factors and ethical restrictions, a recommendation that is drawing concern about the country’s ability to still generate innovation in the AI space.

The federal government established the Data Ethics Commission in July of 2018 to develop ethical guidelines and recommendations for protecting “the individual, preserving social cohesion, and safeguarding and promoting prosperity in the information age.” The Commission recently published a series of opinions on algorithms and artificial intelligence, recommending more regulation that also leaves space for innovation.

“The Data Ethics Commission holds the view that regulation is necessary, and cannot be replaced by ethical principles,” says the commission in the report. “This is particularly true for issues with heightened implications for fundamental rights that require the central decisions to be made by the democratically elected legislator.”

The commission elaborated a series of general principles related to the use of data and building of algorithmic systems:

— For data, the ethics commission recommends foresighted responsibility, respect for the rights of the parties involved, data use and data sharing for the public good, fit-for-purpose data quality, risk-adequate level of information security, and interest-oriented data transparency.

— For algorithms, the commission recommends a they are built with a human-centered design, compatible with societal values, sustainable, oriented toward quality and performance, robust, secure, that minimize harm and discrimination.

“If we want to ensure that digital transformation serves the good of society as a whole, both society itself and its elected political representatives must engage in a debate on how to use and shape data-based technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI)”, the commission stated in its report.

Experts were quick to react and criticize the report for being so focused on regulation that would limit business’ space for innovation, arguing that too many considerations and rules disincentivize business and companies from attempting to create new AI tools.

“If Germany’s guidelines were to inspire the EU’s forthcoming AI legislation, the EU will indeed manage to set a global standard — a blueprint on what to do to fail in the digital economy,” wrote Eline Chivot, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation in Brussels. “And if Germany attempts to act on these policy recommendations alone, it will undermine its goals of both remaining a leader in Industry 4.0 and promoting a digital single market across the EU.”

Germany has earned a global reputation for innovation. In the 2019 Best Countries study, a global survey of views of countries, Germany is seen as the fifth-most innovative country.

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