eco Comments Final Report of German Data Ethics Commission: “Regulatory fantasies will put the brakes on digitalization”

  • Algorithm regulation putting the brakes on digitalization
  • eco urges discursive approach to questions of digital ethics
  • Internet companies taking on responsibility

In July 2018, the Data Ethics Commission established by the German Ministry for Internal Affairs and the German Justice Ministry began its work to answer key questions on the ethical handling of algorithms, artificial intelligence, and digital innovations. This week, the experts presented their final report. In the around 250-page report, the commission calls for profound intervention into the digital world.

On this, eco Chair Oliver J. Süme comments: “With several of its demands, the commission has considerably overshot the mark. Regulatory fantasies like a new European General Algorithm Regulation could really put the brakes on digitalization, because algorithms are the basis of digital transformation. With an obligation for interoperability for messengers, it even needs to be questioned to what extent this would limit the sovereignty of users.”

eco urges a discursive approach to questions of digital ethics

Digitalization continues to advance unabated, raising both ethical and legal issues as it does. “We takes these issues regarding ethical norms and guidelines for action very seriously. There is great potential in the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence, but it is also understandable that in using these technologies, it must also be considered what data service operators are making available. Implementing ethical standards does not necessarily require new regulations and mandatory labelling for digital services like chatbots.”

eco warns against creating vast numbers of new laws and rules, and calls for the adaptation of key ethical concepts to the circumstances of the digital world, as well as taking a discursive approach: Blind over-regulation would massively impair the development and use of artificial intelligence as a key technology and would even further delay digitalization in Germany.

The association is already making an important contribution to this ethical discourse with the eco Kompendium Digitale Ethik, published in German at the beginning of the year (and forthcoming in English), which contains expert opinions and specialist contributions on a range of issues relating to digital ethics, such as the focal topics: The State & Framework Conditions, Work, IT Security, and Education.

eco – Association of the Internet Industry has also formulated Guidelines for the Handling of Artificial Intelligence. The association has also already drawn up a position (German language only) on interoperability for messenger services.

Internet companies taking on responsibility

In connection with this, the Association of the Internet Industry also wishes to highlight the fact that many companies are already taking responsibility for ethical challenges in the context of digital transformation, and are successfully contributing to the adherence to ethical norms, for example, through self-regulatory initiatives. A prominent example here is the eco Complaints Office, which works at combatting illegal online content.

eco Comments Final Report of German Data Ethics Commission: “Regulatory fantasies will put the brakes on digitalization”

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