Google owner calls for ‘proportionate approach’ to AI regulation


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google-owner Alphabet, urged regulators on Monday to take a “proportionate approach” when drafting rules for artificial intelligence (AI), days before the European Commission is due to publish proposals on the issue.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, speaks on artificial intelligence during a Bruegel think tank conference in Brussels, Belgium January 20, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Regulators are grappling with ways to govern AI, aiming to encourage innovation while curbing potential misuse, as companies and law enforcement agencies increasingly adopt the technology.

Pichai said there was no question AI needs to be regulated, but that rulemakers should tread carefully.

“Sensible regulation must also take a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms with social opportunities. This is especially true in areas that are high risk and high value,” he said in prepared remarks for a conference in Brussels organized by think tank Bruegel.

Regulators should tailor rules according to different sectors, Pichai said, citing medical devices and self-driving cars as examples that require different rules.

He also called on governments to align their rules and agree on core values.

The European Commission is taking a tougher line on AI than the United States, aiming to strengthen existing regulations that protect Europeans’ privacy and data rights, according to an 18-page proposal paper seen by Reuters.

Earlier this month, the U.S. government published regulatory guidelines on AI aimed at limiting authorities’ overreach and urged Europe to avoid an aggressive approach.

Pichai said it was important to be clear-eyed about what could go wrong with AI and that while it promised huge benefits there were real concerns about potential negative consequences.

One area of concern is so-called “deep fakes” – video and audio clips that have been manipulated using AI. Pichai said Google had released open datasets to help the research community build better tools to detect such fakes.

Another concern is facial recognition technology, which Pichai said could be used for “nefarious reasons”.

Google Cloud is not offering general-purpose facial recognition application programming interfaces (APIs) while it establishes policy and technical safeguards, he said.

Editing by Mark Potter

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