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EDPS warns that Europe’s flagship privacy principles are under attack as advances in artificial intelligence accelerate

Key parts of the EU’s data protection and privacy regime are under attack from industry lobbyists and could face harsh criticism from lawmakers in the next parliamentary mandate, the European data protection watchdog (EDPS) has warned.

Wojciech Wiewiórowski, the head of the regulator, warned: “We have launched a pretty strong attack on the principles themselves.” Monitor EU institutions’ own compliance EU data protection rules, Tuesday. He was responding to questions from members of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee on: The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is at risk of being watered down.

“Especially I mean [GDPR] Minimization and purpose limitation principles. Purpose limitations will certainly be questioned in the coming years. “

Parliamentary elections will be held in June and the European Commission’s term expires at the end of 2024, so changes to the EU’s administrative machinery are imminent. Any shift in approach by incoming lawmakers could have implications for the EU’s high standards of protection of personal data.

The GDPR has only been operational since May 2018, but Wiewiórowski detailed his views on the coming regulatory challenges at a lunch press conference following the release of the EDPS annual report, saying the make-up of the next parliament would include a handful of legislation They participated in the drafting and adoption of the flagship privacy framework.

“We can say that those who will be working in the European Parliament will see the GDPR as a historic event,” he said, predicting that incoming lawmakers will be interested in discussing whether the landmark legislation still complies with its Purpose. But he also said some revisiting of past laws is a recurring process each time the makeup of the elected parliament changes.

But he especially emphasized meIndustry lobbying, in particular corporate complaints against the GDPR’s purpose limitation principle.Some in the scientific community also believe this element of the law limits their researchEvery Viviorovsky.

“Some people have an expectation [data] Controllers will be able to reuse data collected for ‘A’ reason in order to find things we don’t know or even things we are looking for,” he said. “There’s an old saying from a business representative that purpose limitation is one of the greatest crimes against humanity because we need the data but we don’t know what the purpose is.

“I disagree. But I cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that this issue is being raised.”

Any shift away from the GDPR’s purpose limitation and data minimization principles could have significant implications for privacy in the region, which was the first to adopt a comprehensive data protection framework. Although GDPR has inspired similar frameworks elsewhere, the EU is still considered to have the strictest privacy rules in the world.

The GDPR imposes an obligation on those who want to use personal data to process only the minimum information necessary for its purpose (also known as data minimization). Furthermore, personal data collected for a certain purpose cannot be freely reused for any other purpose that occurs.

The GDPR’s purpose limitation principle means that data operations should be attached to a specific purpose. Further processing is possible – however, this may, for example, require the consent of the owner of the information or there may be another valid legal basis. Therefore, the purpose-limited approach injects intentional friction into data manipulation.

This element of the law requires that the intended use of personal data be made clear up front, rather than collecting and keeping people’s information in case some purpose might occur in the future. Although data minimization encourages retaining as little data as possible. But with the current industry-wide push to develop increasingly powerful generative AI tools, there is a huge scramble for data to train AI models – a drive that runs directly counter to the EU’s approach.

OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, has already run into trouble here. It faces a series of GDPR compliance issues and investigations, including those related to its legal basis for processing model training data.

Wiewiórowski did not explicitly accuse generative AI of launching a “strong attack” on the GDPR’s purpose limitation principle. But he did list artificial intelligence as one of the key challenges facing data protection regulators in the region due to the rapid development of the technology.

“Issues related to artificial intelligence and neuroscience will be the most important part of the next five years,” he predicted, referring to emerging technology challenges.

“The technical challenges we face at the time of the AI ​​revolution are very clear, despite the fact that this is not a technological revolution. We have the democratization of tools. But we must also remember that in times of high instability, Like what we’re going through now – Russia’s war in Ukraine – it’s a time when technology is evolving every week,” he said.

Warfare is playing an active role in driving the use of data and artificial intelligence technology. In Ukraine, for example, artificial intelligence plays an important role in areas such as satellite image analysis and geospatial intelligence. Viverovsky said battlefield applications are driving artificial intelligence. Applications of intelligence elsewhere in the world. He further predicted that the impact would be felt throughout the economy in the coming years.

In neuroscience, he points to regulatory challenges posed by the transhumanist movement, which seeks to augment human capabilities by physically connecting people with information systems. “This is not science fiction,” he said. “[It’s] What’s happening now. We must prepare for this from a legal and human rights perspective. “

Examples of startups targeting transhumanist ideas include Elon Musk’s Neuralink, which is developing chips that can read brain waves. Facebook owner Meta is reportedly developing an artificial intelligence that can interpret people’s thoughts.

In an era where technological systems and human biology are increasingly converging, privacy risks can be serious indeed. Therefore, any AI-driven weakening of EU data protection law in the short term could have long-term consequences for citizens’ human rights.

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