China seeks to build ‘responsible AI’ with newly issued industry principles

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This article by Eudora Wang originally appeared on China Money Network, the best data intelligence platform tracking China’s tech and venture capital markets (access requires subscription).

China has issued a series of principles on Monday to regulate the research and application of artificial intelligence (AI), in an attempt to ensure the “safe, controllable, and responsible use” of the technology amid rising privacy concerns in the country.

The principles highlight a theme of “developing responsible AI,” which include eight tenets, namely harmony and friendliness, fairness and justice, inclusiveness and sharing, respect for privacy, security and controllability, shared responsibility, open cooperation, and agile governance, said Xue Lan, director of China’s National Governance Committee for the New Generation Artificial Intelligence, cited by Chinese state-owned media Xinhua News Agency.

The committee, operating under the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), consists of a board of AI and public policy experts from various universities and research institutions to examine the impact of AI on laws, ethics, and society.

The principles stipulate that AI developers should conduct research in “a fair, inclusive, and open manner” that protects the interests of all related parties from developers to consumers. They also underscore other important issues in the domain, including privacy protection, international cooperation, responsible use of AI, and creating timely regulations to keep up with AI’s rapid development, according to the Chinese government website.

“AI technology is developing very fast and is changing everything in society, including economic structures, governance, national security, and even international relations,” said Xue. He said that AI technology has also raised many new concerns in domains like data privacy, machine ethics, AI safety and risks, and the misuse of AI technologies, referring to the misinformation initiated by “deep fake videos,” AI-manipulated fake footage that has become increasingly difficult for ordinary viewers to differentiate.

The move came after Beijing implemented a national AI plan in 2017, which predicts Chinese AI researchers leading an industry expected to be worth over US$150 billion by 2030. The huge amount of data being generated by Chinese citizens, however, has raised questions about how the Chinese state-owned and private companies collect, safeguard, and utilize the trillions of data points collected per day.

The Chinese metropolis of Shanghai is also drafting an AI industry development plan, the city’s vice mayor Wu Qing unveiled at a press conference on Tuesday. Wu said that the local government is also launching an AI-focused industry investment fund to further promote AI development after it welcomed the debut of China’s Nasdaq-style high-tech board last week.

A US senator proposed this month to ban companies based in China, North Korea, Russia, and other countries from an influential US government accuracy test of facial recognition technology, given that they consistently violate “internationally recognized human rights.” The test, known as “the Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT),” is widely recognized as the gold standard for evaluating the reliability of facial recognition software.