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Regulation December 7, 2022

Campaigners Urge AI Act to Go Much Further

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Europe and AI

The EU is edging closer to passing an act that will minimize the potential harms of artificial intelligence (AI), but not everyone is happy with the bill in its current form.

Access Now is one body that has expressed concerns. The human rights group believes that the AI Act doesn’t do enough to protect asylum seekers and irregular migrants.

The EU AI Act

The EU act is designed to prevent AI from being used for subliminal messaging, exploiting vulnerabilities in computer systems, and establishing any form of social credit system. 

The Czech Republic is the current President of the EU, responsible for guiding the bill through to its finish. Ivan Bartoš, Czechia’s Deputy Prime Minister for Digitalisation hailed the bill in its current form as a “delicate balance between the protection of fundamental rights and the promotion of uptake of AI technology.”

The bill excludes traditional computing systems but includes modern machine learning.

EU wants to regulate AI.

The EU AI Act does not protect the most vulnerable

Access Now, a migrant lobby group that “defend and extend the digital rights of users at risk globally,” argue that the new bill does not do enough to protect everyone. Access Now and some 190+ partners are calling on the EU to ensure the bill also protects irregular migrants and asylum seekers.

“Artificial intelligence tech is being deployed to intimidate, discriminate, and categorise certain groups of people,” said Caterina Rodelli, EU Policy Analyst at Access Now on Tuesday.

“The EU has a responsibility to ensure the fundamental rights of all are upheld inside, outside, and at every border across the Union, and that these new tools are not used to reinforce prejudice and perpetuate oppression of certain groups. The AI Act must be amended now.”

Access Now went on to argue that if the AI Act failed to cover these groups that would fail in its mission to promote “trustworthy AI.”

The AI Act aims to implement an ecosystem of trust by proposing a legal framework for AI-based solutions while encouraging businesses to develop them. Regarding technology, Europe has made no secret of its desire to export its values across the world, at least at a principle level.

/MetaNews

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Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney.

AI

Italy Bans AI Chatbot Replika – EU Hastening AI Regulation

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Can AI Be Our Lawyer? ‘Robot Lawyer’ to Test That in US Court

Replika, US-based artificially intelligent chatbot, was banned in Italy. It was prohibited by Italy’s Data Protection Agency (GPDP), which said on Friday that it cited its risk to minors and emotionally fragile people, Reuters reported.

Replika was launched in 2017 as a San Francisco startup offering customers personalized avatars that talk and listen to them.

Also Read: ‘AI Will Affect White Collar Jobs too’

It was quite popular among English speakers and is free to use. However, it was generating $2 million per month via the sale of bonus features such as voice chats.

Replika is marketed as a “virtual friend,” with abilities to improve the emotional well-being of the user.

During account creation, the platform merely requests a user’s name, email account and gender, GPDP claimed.

“And the ‘replies’ served by the chatbot are often clearly in conflict with the enhanced safeguards children and vulnerable individuals are entitled to. Several reviews on the two main App Stores include comments by users flagging sexually inappropriate contents,” said GPDP.

However, the Italian regulator stated that the AI chatbot’s intervention in the user’s mood “may increase the risk for individuals still in a development stage or in a state of emotional fragility.”

The Italian watchdog cited the lack of an age verification system and the failure to filter users who do not provide their true age.

Replika breaches European Privacy Regulations and processes personal data unlawfully as it cannot be based, even implicitly, on a contract that a minor is unable to sign, GPDP said.

“Replika’s developer, the U.S. company Luka Inc., must notify the Italian authority of measures taken to implement its requirements in 20 days and could be fined up to 20 million euros ($21.80 million), or up to 4 percent of its global annual turnover, may be imposed by the SA,” said GPDP in its statement.

EU Rushing AI Regulation

The launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT has raised concerns globally. EU industry leader Thierry Breton has announced new AI regulations to address the risks posed by the ChatGPT chatbot and AI technology.

OpenAI has recently launched a premium version of ChatGPT after being rated the fastest-growing consumer platform in history.

Breton said the risk posed by ChatGPT and the AI system underscored the urgent need for rules, which he proposed last year in a bid to set the global standard for the technology and are under discussion in Brussels.

“As showcased by ChatGPT, AI solutions can offer great opportunities for businesses and citizens, but can also pose risks. This is why we need a solid regulatory framework to ensure trustworthy AI brd on high-quality data,” said Breton.

Breton is seeking co-operation from OpenAI and developers of high-risk AI systems to ensure compliance with the proposed AI Act.

“Just the fact that generative AI has been newly included in the definition shows the speed at which technology develops and that regulators are struggling to keep up with this pace,” a partner at a U.S. law firm, said.

AI has become a hot topic and has consistently made headlines due to its rapid development in recent years, attracting the attention of lawmakers for law enforcement.

ChatGPT, in particular, has emerged as the best cheating partner for college students and a major headache for academic institutions.

 

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Metaverse

Interpol Wants to Police Metaverse Crime. But That May Not Be Easy

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Interpol Wants to Police Metaverse Crime. But That May Not Be Easy

The International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol, is looking at ways to police crime in the metaverse, according to secretary general Jurgen Stock. However, the agency may find that to be hard in the absence of a universally agreed definition of the “metaverse,” let alone of metaverse crime.

Stock said, “criminals are sophisticated and professional in very quickly adapting to any new technological tool that is available to commit crime. We need to sufficiently respond to that. Sometimes lawmakers, police, and our societies are running a little bit behind.”

“We have seen if we are doing it too late, it already impacts trust in the tools we are using, and therefore the metaverse. In similar platforms that already exist, criminals are using it,” he added, according to the BBC.

Defining the metaverse

The metaverse may be thought of as the idea of a post-physical world in which life is lived virtually on the Internet: “a single, shared, immersive, persistent, 3D virtual space” where humans experience life in ways they could not in the real world.

Also read: Is the World Ready for Music Concerts in the Metaverse?

American author Neal Stephenson is credited with coining the term “metaverse” in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash. He referred to the metaverse as an all-encompassing digital world that exists parallel to the real world.

However, the word gained significance when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg changed the name of the social media company to “Meta” in 2021, a rebrand that focused on building the metaverse.

While at this point users are already utilizing a range of hardware such as headsets to gain access to the immersive experiences of the metaverse, there’s still no universally agreed definition of the metaverse. Much less of metaverse crime.

What does metaverse crime look like for Interpol?

The building blocks of the new form of communication are still being laid down. Anyone can build their own metaverse and define how that specific digital world works. Interpol has now built its own virtual reality (VR) space in order to catch up with criminals operating in the metaverse.

The VR unit is aimed at helping its officers with training for virtual interactions. Announcing the launch of the virtual reality metaverse last October, Interpol said:

“As the number of metaverse users grows and the technology further develops, the list of possible crimes will only expand to potentially include crimes against children, data theft, money laundering, financial fraud, counterfeiting, ransomware, phishing, and sexual assault and harassment.”

Interpol is still having a hard time defining metaverse crime. Madan Oberoi, the executive director of technology and innovation at Interpol, admitted to the BBC that “there are crimes where I don’t know whether it can still be called a crime or not.”

“For example, there have been reported cases of sexual harassment,” he said. “If you look at the definitions of these crimes in physical space, and you try to apply it in the metaverse, there is a difficulty.”

“We don’t know whether we can call them a crime or not, but those threats are definitely there, so those issues are yet to be resolved,” he added.

Oberoi said law enforcement needed to “know about the metaverse” in order to “help people who have been hurt in the metaverse.” It is one of Interpol’s objectives, he explained, “to make sure law enforcement personnel start using the metaverse and they become aware.”

Uphill task

Alex Kim, chief monetization officer at XR platform Sensorium Galaxy, said while discussions around metaverse regulation may help create “safe digital environments” for users, there is still need to strike a balance in implementation.

“The metaverse is being envisioned as a decentralized platform over which no central authority has control over,” Kim told MetaNews.

“This begs the question of who exactly should be tasked with monitoring the metaverse and what powers can this entity potentially have, and over what and whom.” Continuing, Kim added:

“It’s clear that policing the metaverse won’t be as straightforward as some might be hoping, but it’s very positive that the conversation surrounding the topic is moving forward, especially given the rapid pace of current technological developments.”

Software engineer Brandon Church laughed at the idea that the global police agency wanted to play guard to the metaverse.

“[The metaverse] is just an idea at the moment. The problem with ideas is that sometimes they never see the light of day. So these guys [Interpol] are working on policing an idea? I’m seriously wondering [where they are going with this],” Church told MetaNews.

Arseny Myakotnikov, cofounder and CMO of drive-to-earn Metadrive, believes the Interpol initiative goes against the ethos of decentralization, a key foundational principle of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, and Web3.

“Each metaverse must exist as a separate digital universe, where investors would be able to set their own rules and regulations based on the weight of their votes through decentralized voting within the project’s DAO,” he says

“It’s important to stress that most of the violations mentioned by the Interpol cannot be committed at the current stage of metaverse technology development.”

Interpol is an international organization that facilitates worldwide police cooperation and crime control. It was created 100 years ago and is made of 195 member countries.

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Business

Meta Reportedly Defeats FTC to Receive Court Approval to Acquire Within

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Meta Reportedly Defeats FTC to Receive Court Approval to Acquire Within

Meta, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, has reportedly won court approval for the acquisition of VR fitness app Supernatural’s maker, Within, after the Federal Trade Commission attempted to block the deal.

Also read: Lawsuit Filed Against Meta, Snap, TikTok for Mental Health Crisis

A US district judge, Edward Davila in San Jose California, “denied the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the proposed transaction” in a sealed decision on Wednesday, reported Bloomberg, citing a source familiar with the ruling.

Meta’s plan was to acquire Within and Supernatural back in October 2021, but it was blocked by the FTC’s complaint file to stop the deal. The FTC’s complaint was justified by saying Meta already owns a “virtual reality empire.”

Following the news, shares of Meta were slightly positive on Wednesday afternoon.

Facebook and The FTC also declined to comment with Bloomberg’s query citing the sealed nature of Davila’s decisions.

Push for Metaverse

The reported victory in this case may boost Mark Zuckerberg’s push towards the Metaverse. Zuckerberg’s Meta Quest 2 is arguably the best VR headset, even after a massive hike in its price last year.

Meta Quest Pro for $1500 and Meta Quest 3 are also in the company’s VR line-up, which has already developed VR spaces for work and play.

The Supernatural, developed by Within, was one of the first subscription-based services on the original Meta Quest.

Supernatural, a fitness app that features video instructors and motion-tracked workout routines, carries similarities to Meta’s successful fitness VR music game Beat Saber. Beat Saber was also acquired by Meta in 2019.

 Meta’s Dominance

A trial before the FTC’s administrative judge will start on Feb. 13. The FTC will also decide if it will continue with the case. Lina Khan, the chair of the FTC, was appointed by US President Joe Biden to bolster antitrust enforcement as a key principle of his administration’s economic policy. Hence, if this order stands, this loss to Meta will be a significant setback for Khan.

The FTC sued Meta back in July, arguing this acquisition would expand its dominance in the consumer VR market, highlighting its purchase of Beat Saber three years ago. The agency even emphasized that the addition of Within would even eliminate a “beneficial rivalry” between the two companies.

At the time, “the case was) based on ideology and speculation, not evidence, the idea that this acquisition would lead to anticompetitive outcomes in a dynamic space with as much entry and growth as online and connected fitness is simply not credible,” said a Meta spokesperson in a statement.

It’s still to be decided whether this will be the end of this story or not, as the FTC has declined to comment.

“Out of respect for the court’s orders, the FTC is not in a position to comment at this time,” FTC director of public affairs Douglas Farrar told The Verge.

Within would be the third start-up acquired by social media giants over the last decade if this case ends here and Meta purchases one more VR start-up. Previously, Meta acquired Oculus in 2014 before purchasing Beat Saber in 2019.

 

 

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