On October 18, 2016, the 38th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (Marrakech 2016) has started discussion referring to artificial intelligence and robotics, because their application is a reality, and the data protection authorities need to develop a position in order to adopt a common approach to regulate the impact of artificial intelligence and robotics on data protection and privacy.

In this regard, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) contributed to the discussions with the document, titled “Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Data Protection” (herein after the “Document”).

According to the EDPS, there are many definitions of artificial intelligence and robotics. For example, the one provided by the Oxford English Dictionary defines artificial intelligence such as “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages”; and ‘robotics, such as “the branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots’ and ‘robot, such as “A machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer”.

The EDPS pointed out that artificial intelligence and robotics are increasing their development and popularity. For example personal assistants like Apple Siri, Google Now or Microsoft Cortana, home robots like iRobot Roomba are already part of our reality. However, their existence requires us to figure out efficiently their social and legal implications on our life.

The Document of the EDPS opened a discussion related to the bidirectional relationship between big data, and artificial intelligence, taking into account the issues concerned the bias induced via the input dataset provided for training the artificial intelligence; the privacy implications and surveillance possibilities of the algorithms for image recognition, which are based on convolutional neural networks that in turn are a specific implementation of machine learning; how the natural language processing, which is a research area aiming to provide computers with the capacity to interact with persons using natural languages, may alter the balance between metadata and actual data ; the autonomous machines, which represent the apex of the artificial intelligence discussion; self-driving cars, which are probably the most popular example of an autonomous machine ; and drones, that serve mainly military purposes, but are increasingly used for purposes of surveillance, mapping, transportation, logistics and public security thanks to the sensors they carry such as cameras, microphones, GPS, which may allow the processing of personal data .

The discussion of the EDPS concerned also the ethical and technical dimension of the development of artificial intelligence and robotics, because the respect of the dignity of a person is not only a fundamental right in itself but also is the foundation for subsequent freedoms and rights, including the rights to privacy and to the protection of personal data. Hence, privacy engineering principles like privacy by default and privacy by design in new research, products and services must be applied in order to permit artificial intelligence and robotics to fully respect the dignity and rights of the individual.

Topics addressed by the EDPS took also into account the discussion developed inter alia by the five of the most important information companies: Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft, which are interested to ensure that artificial intelligence and robotics is beneficial for everybody.

In addition, it considered the legal implications of artificial intelligence and robotics, analyzed by the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs, with the ‘Draft report with recommendations to the Commission on Civil Law Rules on Robotics’, which called for the creation of a European Agency for robotics and artificial intelligence in order to provide the technical, ethical and regulatory expertise needed to support the relevant public actors, at both EU and Member State level, in their efforts to ensure a timely and well-informed response to the new opportunities and challenges arising from the technological development of robotics; and recommended the Commission to analyze existing European legislation with a view to checking the need for adaption in light of the development of robotics and artificial intelligence

For the EDPS, the future of artificial intelligence and robotics are bright. However, many issues must be defined and addressed, in order to avoid that artificial intelligences may on purpose or by chance be an existential threat to humanity.

In this regards, under the resolution on Human Rights Defenders, the 38th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (Marrakech 2016), which did not issue any specific resolution on the artificial intelligence and robotic, encouraged governments to provide and promote safe and effective channels for individuals to report poor privacy practices, to seek redress for breach of data protection rules, or disproportionate action against the rights to privacy and data protection, and supported efforts by the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy concerning the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights.