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G20 Summit Brings AI, Data, Privacy and Security to the Forefront

The G20 Summit held last month in Osaka, Japan brought the world’s greatest leaders together to collectively address eight themes that influence robust global economic growth. The themes included the global economy, trade, and investment, innovation, environment and energy, employment, women’s empowerment, development, and health. When looking at the agenda, there were common issues that had technologists particularly keeping watch of outcomes: Data access and security and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

AI and AI-enabling technologies have become so ubiquitous within the past few years that they have impacted nearly every facet of our lives. Yet, with the promises of AI many concerns have surfaced in regards to globally-reaching media giants, social media platforms and technology behemoths that are trying to maintain control of their businesses, fend off government intrusion and appease consumer advocates.

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Leading up to the summit, technologists highly anticipated the meeting between the US and Chinese leaders. These talks were important to the state of AI and Machine Learning as many of leading companies in AI research and development produce or buy their hardware parts in China. Technology companies were pleased that tensions of a potential trade war were subsided, with the Consumer Technology Association, Semiconductor Industry Association, National Retail Federation and US Chamber of Commerce all expressing support of the leaders’ cooperation.

An important topic on the agenda was the need to make sure AI technologies are used for ethical reasons. There are rampant concerns that the internet and social media are continuing to be used “for violent extremist and terrorist purposes,” cross-border data flow are presenting problems with intellectual property rights and security, and that software may inadvertently discriminate on ethnicity, sex, religion or other factors.

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Both AI optimists and skeptics agree that cognitive technologies used for malicious ends could pose a real threat and steps should be taken to prevent this from happening. G20 finance ministers concluded countries need to cooperate to align domestic and international legal frameworks “to build trust and facilitate the free flow of data,” and, for the first time, agreed on G20’s own principles for responsible AI use. This includes a human-centric AI approach which calls on countries to use AI in a way that respects human rights and shares the benefits brought by it.

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Leaders also took the opportunity towards better communication around data, privacy, and security internationally. Finance ministers confirmed that as data flows grow globally, it is important to secure trust related to privacy and security based on domestic and international laws. Furthermore, participants agreed that free flows of data will lead to the development of the whole world, including developing countries.

It is necessary to earn back people’s trust in the digital economy by giving them full control over their data, ensuring and protecting their privacy. On the other hand, it is important not to impede the development of the digital economy by imposing restrictive measures on data. This is a delicate balance that countries are willing to take steps toward resolution.

Overall, G20 leaders aimed to rebuild international trust and strengthen communication around data issues. Bringing these issues to the forefront will accelerate innovation in AI and machine learning.

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