A highly hyped EU push to introduce a legislative framework for Artificial Intelligence must take into account the twin challenges of self-assessment and human oversight if it is to succeed, two local AI experts believe. 

Professor Alexiei Dingli warned that self-assessment procedures had proven problematic in other legislative areas while his colleague Dylan Seychell noted that relying on human oversight of AI systems is easier said than done. 

The academics were speaking at a discussion organised by the Malta IT Law Association focused on AI, privacy, cybersecurity and DORA (the Digital Operational Resilience Act).

EU lawmakers agreed last week to a key text that will form the basis of the bloc’s proposal to regulate the AI sector. Brussels has said it wants a framework in place by the end of 2023. 

The law being proposed would regulate AI according to the level of risk: the higher the risk to individuals' rights or health, for example, the greater the systems' obligations.

While the EU has been mulling AI regulation since 2021, its efforts have accelerated in the past months in the wake of the public release of tools like ChatGPT. 

The EU wants to ban high-risk AI systems and ensure tools like ChatGPT or Google’s Bard are legally required to disclose that their content was generated by a machine rather than human and disclose what copyright material they use when generating content. 

“What's coming in the next five or 10 years will make ChatGPT look like a toy and it would be terrible strategy for legislators to stop at what AI can do today,” AI practitioner and MITLA board member Gege Gatt said during the MITLA discussion. 

The Malta Digital Innovation Authority spoke about its own responsibility to represent Malta's interests in these legal discussions as well as its role in certifying AI systems that meet the EU standards in Malta. 

The panel discussion on cybersecurity highlighted the increasing convergence of law and technology. Traditionally seen as separate fields, the changing cyber landscape has blurred the lines between legal and technology expertise. The discussion emphasised the need for legal professionals to understand cyber risks and for technologists to grasp the associated liabilities. The panel also addressed the ongoing harmonisation of cybersecurity legislation and the importance of liability considerations including implications of personal liability being introduced on management boards. 

The annual conference was an opportunity for experts and legal practitioners in Malta to delve deeper into various laws impacting their sectors, such as DORA, an EU law designed to strengthen the protection of financial institutions against digital threats like cyber attacks and system failures. The DORA panel highlighted the regulation’s wide-reaching scope as both financial entities and third-party service providers may be caught within its provisions.  Emphasis was also placed on the need for continuous monitoring of DORA’s implementation because much of the technical detail needed to complete the law is still being drafted by the relevant European Supervisory Authorities.

Given the introduction of various new laws in the ICT field which will also impact privacy, a GDPR-related debate was merited. One of the panels discussed the fine balance required between the right to privacy and the right of freedom of expression and information. 

Matthew Caruana Galizia largely contributed to this debate and pushed for more open knowledge and reasonable access rights in this regard, particularly to investigative journalists.  Data Protection Commissioner Ian Deguara indicated that in certain cases, his office is not aligned with local practices removing judgements from the Courts’ website, while Geraldine Spiteri Lucas, CEO at the Malta Business Registry explained why access is restricted on ultimate beneficial owners. 

MITLA organises regular events that are designed to keep the legal and tech community in Malta abreast of industry developments. Members of MITLA get privileged access to such events and memberships can be obtained on www.mitla.org.mt/membership 

The event was sponsored by RMC Wise, Fenech & Fenech, GTG Advocates, Camilleri Preziosi, MDIA, BMIT and CSB Group.

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