On June 15, a webinar held jointly by the Hong Kong office of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBS) and the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), a consortium of leading research universities in 19 economies of the Pacific Rim, highlighted the complexity of data rights for citizens and users, with risks deriving from both under-regulation and over-regulation of AI applications.
The webinar held under the theme Protection of Data Rights for Citizens and Users completed a joint hbs-APRU series consisting of three webinars on regulating AI. The series came against the backdrop of ever more AI-based systems leaving the laboratory stage and entering our everyday lives. While AI enables private sector enterprises and governments to collect, store, access, and analyse data that influence crucial aspects of life, the challenge for regulators is to strike a balance between data rights of users and the rights for enterprises and governments to make use of AI to improve their services.
The webinar’s three speakers representing an NGO network, academia and the private sector explained that the fair use of personal data should be protected while abusive manipulation and surveillance should be limited. Conversely, regulators should leave reasonable room for robust innovation and effective business strategies and facilitate effective operation of government bureaus to deliver public services.
“We not only talk about the use of personal data but also a broader range of fundamental rights, such as rights to social protection, non-discrimination and freedom of expression,” said Sarah Chander, Senior Policy Adviser at European Digital Rights (EDRi), a Brussels-based advocacy group leading the work on AI policy and specifically the EU AI Act.
“Besides these rights in an individual sense, we have also been looking into AI systems’ impact on our society, impact on broader forms of marginalization, potential invasiveness, as well as economic and social justice, and the starting point of our talks with the different stakeholders is the question of how we can empower the people in this context,” she added.
M. Jae Moon, Underwood Distinguished Professor and Director of the Institute for Future Government at Yonsei University, whose research focuses on digital government, explained that governments are increasingly driven to implement AI systems by their desire to improve evidence-based policy decision-making.
“The availability of personal data is very important to make good decisions for public interest, and, of course, privacy protection and data security should always be ensured,” Moon said.
“The citizens, for their part, are increasingly demanding customized and targeted public services, and the balancing of these two sides’ demands requires good social consensus,” he added.
Moon went on to emphasize that citizens after consenting to the use of their private data by the government should be able to track the data usage while also being able to withdraw their consent.
Sankha Som, Chief Innovation Evangelist of Tata Consultancy Services, explained that the terms Big Data and AI are often intertwined despite describing very different things. According to Som, Big Data is the ability to manage the input side of AI and drawing insights from the data whereas AI is about predictions and decision-making.
“If you look at how AI systems are built today, there are several different Big Data approaches used on the input side, but there are also processing steps such as data labelling which are AI specific; and many issues related to AI actually come from the these processing steps,” Som said.
“Biases can, intentionally or unintentionally, cause long-term harm to individuals and groups, and they can creep into these processes, so it will not only take regulation on use of input data but also on end use, while at the same time complying with enterprise specific policies,” he added.
The webinar was moderated by Dr. Axel Harneit-Sievers, Director, Heinrich Böll Stiftung Hong Kong Office. The series’ previous two webinars were held in May under the themes Risk-based Approach of AI Regulation and Explainable AI.
Programme Manager, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Hong Kong, Asia | Global Dialogue
Email: Lucia.Siu [at] hk.boell.org
Senior Director, Policy and Research Programs, APRU
Email: policyprograms [at] apru.org