Spotlight on the European Parliament with Lina Gálvez Muñoz, MEP

Lina Gálvez Muñoz is a Member of the European Parliament representing Spain and serves as Vice-Chair on the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. At the Institute of AI, we seek out expert perspectives and insights into questions at the cutting edge of AI policy. The views of these legislators do not necessarily reflect the Institute’s own position.

Recent years have seen the EU make strides in the regulation of technology, from the implementation of General Data Protection Regulations in 2018 to the publication of the EU Whitepaper on Artificial Intelligence in 2020. Nevertheless, significant challenges undoubtedly remain.

The Institute of AI caught up with Lina Gálvez Muñoz, MEP, to find out more about the important work still to be done and how she would like to see the coming years unfold.

When it comes to the future of technology, Lina describes herself as a “techno-optimist”, but one who acknowledges the particular challenges posed by AI.

“Technology is not an easy subject to regulate, especially as it changes and evolves so quickly”.

“It is true that AI is a very new topic. Therefore, we are still in a continuous and undeniable learning process”

Given this speed with which technology is evolving, Lina emphasises the importance of a strategy where European values remain at the centre of policy decisions.

“We are legislating with a human-centred approach, which respects fundamental rights and ensures that humans ultimately remain in control, not algorithms. This approach gives confidence and trust to citizens to use technology which will not violate their rights and will be based on values, principles and rights protected in the EU.”

And while some express worries that this European approach to regulation will stifle innovation, Lina points out that EU regulations can actually do the exact opposite.

“In many technology-related areas, common EU legislative action has great potential to boost the internal market and provide European industry with a competitive edge.”

“A recent study by the European Parliament indicated that a common EU framework on ethics of artificial intelligence, robotics and related technologies could potentially bring the EU €294.9 billion in additional GDP and 4.6 million additional jobs by 2030.”

For this reason, Lina favours Europe’s regulatory approach over reliance on self-regulation.

“I do not see self-regulation as the path. Look at what is still happening with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica in the US with user’s data and its impact on elections, especially now with the US presidential election so close. It is not good for our democracies.”

“I do not see regulation per se stifling innovation. The innovation performance of the EU has increased by 8.9% on average since 2012, surpassing the United States for the second year.”

Lina therefore sees regulation as an important tool that can help make AI work for everybody in society, addressing concerns from privacy to bias to national security.

When it comes to AI, there are many challenges to be addressed so we asked Lina which of these issues she would like to see receiving more attention from legislators.

“The risk that worries me is the perpetuation and increase of inequalities which AI and other technologies can cause. It has been profusely proven that the data used in such technologies reflect the predispositions that exist in real life, thus generating biases. The reproduction and amplification of sexism and discrimination present in our societies by biased data sets, models and algorithms in AI is not acceptable and must be prevented.”

“Another related aspect is the constant underrepresentation of women at all levels in the tech world and in AI in particular. This is particularly worrying as these sectors are the ones shaping the future of our societies, and women cannot be excluded from that. Closing the gender gap and ensuring women can exercise their digital rights is of paramount importance. In this context, the evolution of the digital sector must go hand-in-hand with other aspects such as education, socialisation, fair working conditions, work-life balance, democracy, good governance and strong public services.”

“We need real equality, not just employability. A meaningful inclusion of all genders at all stages should result in policies and technologies that make digital equality a reality.”

These issues need to be addressed not just nationally but internationally and one clear advantage of the EU approach to regulation is the facilitation of trans-national collaboration.

For Lina, it is important that this collaboration extends beyond the EU.

“We need to accelerate regular digital cooperation based on shared values such as inclusiveness, respect, human-centeredness and transparency to avoid fragmented efforts and build a climate of trust.”

She recognises the challenges of achieving this collaboration in light of recent geo-political trends.

“A Russian research institute identified two of the top issues for 2020 as the US presidential elections, but also the great technological and digital divergence between China and the US.”

“The EU, China and the US will play a key role in defining how global technological developments will go forward. Therefore, cooperation is necessary in ICT and digital policies, closely linked with trade, research and cyber issues, to address existing divergences, such as on reciprocity, data protection and fundamental rights.”

When it comes to differences between the EU and US, Lina describes her hopes for the future.

“I would like to see the EU trying to align the US to our values.”

“I understand that under the current uncertain circumstances, it is somehow wishful thinking, but the cooperation could start with certain US states, such as California, which at the beginning of 2020 passed new laws on data protection and privacy closer in content to the EU legislation. Therefore, it could become an important asymmetric ally in this process, as it has been in the fight against climate change.”

In this atmosphere where hopes of collaboration can be deemed “wishful thinking”, there are also reasons to be optimistic and Lina emphasises the ways in which 2020 can and should be seen as an opportunity for those regulating technology.

“The use of AI is extending quickly, and we are now seeing the real implications of it in health, ethical rights, in jobs and for the future of our society”

“We have a major opportunity and there is momentum now that can help accelerate the development of trustworthy AI for the benefit of individuals and societies in Europe, supporting EU’s climate goals, increasing competitiveness and helping decrease inequalities. “

“The time to act is now, ensuring that the AI revolution is just, with no person or territory left behind”.