Unesco adopts a recommendation on the ethics of artificial intelligence

The 193 members of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN), adopted on November 25, 2021 a recommendation of artificial intelligence. This is the “world’s first ethical framework for the use of artificial intelligence”, welcomed Audrey Azoulay, Director General of Unesco.

This text is the result of the work of a group of experts formed in March 2020 that was commissioned to write a draft recommendation on the ethics of AI. A first version was produced after an extensive consultation process that was carried out online, but also through regional workshops and consultations. This process resulted in more than 50,000 comments on the text. Therefore, the final version of the recommendation has just been approved.

It is important to specify that this text is not binding on the signatory states, of which France is a founding member. However, this framework has the merit of existing national regulations and could inspire them in the future.

Provide responsible guidance
The aim of the text is “to give a responsible orientation to AI technologies”. He cites “biases that may involve or accentuate inequalities and exclusions” and the threat of “cultural, social and ecological diversity and lead to social or economic divisions” as risks possibly generated by AI. Unesco also recalls that AI has many benefits provided it guarantees “equitable access” taking into account “damages and impacts”.

The recommendation does not provide a “unique” definition of AI, “the latter is called upon to evolve in line with technological progress.” It is generally addressed to “technological systems capable of processing information through a process similar to intelligent behavior, and which generally comprise reasoning, learning, perception, anticipation, planning or control functions.”

Recalling that systems must respect privacy, be robust and not cause discrimination, Unesco recommends that States establish “impact studies” to identify benefits and risks. They should highlight “the impact on human rights, labor law, the environment and ecosystems.” States and companies should also establish “due diligence” and “oversight” mechanisms.

Without legal personality
The recommendation also addresses liability for damage caused by a machine learning system. It advises States to ensure that the damage caused is “investigated and repaired” by implementing “strong enforcement mechanisms and corrective measures.” Important clarification: consider that the systems should not have legal personality but that the responsibility must always fall on a natural or legal person.

Being intimately linked to AI, data should be the subject of policy, reports UNESCO. The “quality of training data” should be assessed, in particular “the adequacy of the data collection and selection processes”. Striking a balance between data collection and privacy protection is also essential.

On the other hand, UNESCO does not directly address the issue of facial recognition. A central issue, however, that the European Union has addressed, for example. The European Commission proposes a strictly regulated use of remote biometric identification systems in public places.

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