Today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data-driven technologies have become part of our everyday lives, from navigation systems to weather forecasting tools. But how is the use of our data being regulated to ensure the preservation of our privacy and security of our personal data? A number of countries have implemented data governance policies: in the EU, the AI Act is currently being discussed, with the goal to ensure safety and fundamental rights while implementing an approach meant to achieve the use of AI technologies that is human-centred and built on transparency and trust. In Switzerland, the situation is similar: a number of bodies are being put in place, such as an AI Competence Network, and strategies are being enacted, such as the Digital Switzerland Strategy. 

In our workshop on the 4th of October in Geneva, we will focus on 3 important aspects related to the future of data and AI governance in Europe: 

  • Protection: human-centric AI and data use
  • Opportunity: innovation, economic development thanks to data spaces
  • Solution: make AI and data work for the achievement of a sustainable future

→ More details about our project and foraus can be found here.

While AI technologies bear enormous potential, their use could have negative impacts if not used and regulated accordingly. The sectors that must be addressed are mainly related to legal aspects such as the traceability and location of data, surveillance and manipulation, but other aspects such as the “human-machine relationship” and the protection of fundamental rights must also be considered. 


Why is this topic relevant?

Recently, governments began to adopt AI regulations and policies to maintain a form of social control over digital technologies and also to protect the data privacy of citizens as well as increase transparency in the way the data is used, while still allowing and promoting the expanding use of these new technologies. As more regulation is being put in place, it is also relevant to mention that initiatives and groups promoting the use of sustainable AI are also gathering momentum. At the same time, the increase in the use of AI technologies comes at the cost of higher energy costs and CO2 emissions. Given the current climate crisis that is affecting large parts of the global population, the consumption costs of AI technologies should also be addressed. What is certain, is that the way in which AI and the use of data use are regulated today will affect citizens in their daily lives in the years to come as well as businesses, research institutions and governments in their daily activities.


EU and data and AI governance

The European Union recognizes the potential and importance of AI technologies but wishes to regulate their use due to concerns that have arisen with regard to the safety and protection of fundamental rights. For this reason, a number of acts are currently being discussed, with the desire to approach AI and data-driven technologies with standards of trust, transparency and excellence which ensure the safety of use and fundamental rights. 


Some important legislative proposals in the EU linked to data and AI governance

The AI Act

In April 2021, the European Commission presented a proposal for the creation of a new Artificial Intelligence act, which aims to address different levels of risk through the adoption of different sets of rules. The proposed classification ranges from minimal risk AI to unacceptable risk AI: the latter includes governmental “social score” systems, which will be banned in the EU. Negotiations are now ongoing between co-legislators, the European Parliament and the Council. 

The European Strategy for Data

On 19 February 2020, the Commission introduced its vision for Europe’s digital future. On the same day, it also adopted the European Strategy for Data, which aims at creating a single human-centred data market in the EU, to benefit from the outcomes of the future data revolution. More specifically, the European Strategy for Data is built on four pillars concerned with policy measures and investments that will be necessary to enable the single data market. 

The Data Governance Act (DGA)

The DGA was one of the measures which were part of the European Strategy for Data. Its aim is to facilitate the sharing of data across the EU and different sectors, increasing transparency and trust between intermediaries. Cross-sector use of data bears an enormous potential, therefore the regulation, which was successfully adopted on 16 May 2022, is a positive step in regulating the human-centred use of data. 

The Data Act 

As part of the European Strategy for Data, this Act puts in place further actions to foster data sharing between businesses/governments and business/business for public interest reasons. The aim of this is to improve data access and usage in the EU. 

Switzerland and data and AI governance

Artificial intelligence was made a core theme of the Digital Switzerland Strategy in 2018. This strategy is binding for the Federal Administration and aims to provide the government with digitalization guidelines, but serves also as a guide for other stakeholders concerned with digital aspects such as the economic and scientific field and civil society. Because of the growing relevance and use of AI technologies, on 25 August 2021 the Federal Council decided to put in place a “Competence Network for Artificial Intelligence” (CNW AI), aiming to promote AI. The CNW AI unit will have various functions such as being a contact partner for networking and reporting issues in the sector, imparting national and international knowledge, and also be a “knowledge database” with a comprehensive list of the federal administration’s AI projects.

More recently, on the 13 of April 2022, Switzerland took another step in contributing to global rules on artificial intelligence. The Federal Council acknowledged the report “Artificial Intelligence and International Rules”, which contains measures to implement in order to achieve an active role in the implementation of global AI rules - which are already beginning to emerge in different levels (eg. international, national, soft law, corporate standards and technology itself). 


What’s in it for the future of data privacy? 

How the use of data and AI technologies are regulated today will be extremely relevant in the future to address possible issues and barriers that might arise. The EU aims to create the framework to achieve a human-centred use of data and AI technologies, with privacy and fundamental rights at the core: this will allow businesses and people to feel safe while enjoying the benefits of these new technologies. 


Some references you may wish to dig deeper into…


La Suisse joue encore la montre sur le front de la protection des données -

Switzerland to contribute to global rules on artificial intelligence - 

Competence Network for Artificial Intelligence | Federal Statistical Office 


The EU AI Act will have global impact, but a limited Brussels Effect 

AI Act - Proposal for a Regulation on a European approach for Artificial Intelligence

The Data Act

Data Governance Act - Proposal for a Regulation on European Data Governance

A European Strategy for Data

Video (CSIS) The European Approach to Regulating Artificial Intelligence

Europe and AI: Leading, Lagging Behind, or Carving Its Own Way?

Council of Europe and Artificial Intelligence