EU consumers hesitant to adopt AI products and technologies

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Consumers in Europe are hesitant to adopt artificial intelligence (AI)-based products and technologies. That, according to Ursula Pachi, deputy director-general, European consumers organisation BEUC is due to data security issues and other safety measures that are associated with the technology.

During a session on governance, standardisation and liability – held during the AI High-Level Conference: Ambition to Action, hosted by the European Commission – she said “AI systems can cause harm through accidents” and as such consumers are hesitant to adopt them.

AI can cause harm to consumer health, living/working conditions, and property due to manipulation of systems and malfunctions, said Pachi.

In addition, interoperability challenges and wrong data connections were identified, during the discussion as the main causes of failure when it comes to AI products and new technologies.

Pachi said that a recent study conducted by BEUC on consumers in 9 countries, revealed that consumers are reluctant to use AI technologies and products. The reason why, is that they regard them ‘dangerous’ because ‘machines fail’.

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The study also revealed that consumers are not aware of where to turn to in the event of technology failure and as such they prefer staying away from artificial intelligence, she said.

“There is a disparity as to who should be liable in the event of a failure between cloud service providers, products manufacturers, network providers, and other parties involved across the value chain of AI-enabled smart technologies and products,” said Pachi.

“Uncertainty amongst consumers continues to hinder the growth of the AI-enabled smart products and technologies market because the dangers associated with the products are not regulated,” Pachi said. And as such, regulation should address who should be hold accountable across the AI products value chain in the event of failures. This would enable consumers to know who they should approach for clarification, repairs, and/or compensation.

“Consumers have no clear rights hence they have no rights,” as was mentioned during the discussion, and as such ensuring they are protected would enable an increase in the adoption of A1 products.

A study conducted by BEUC found that the majority of consumers believe companies use artificial intelligence to manipulate their decisions, with more than two-thirds of the consumers surveyed saying they prefer having the right to say ‘no’ to automated decision-making.

Pachi added that today consumers have no clue how AI technologies work. Consumer awareness on how AI operates is key to increased usage, she said.

The issue of cybersecurity was also raised during the summit with participants saying there is a need for the development of modern security standards and frameworks to ensure consumer data is protected. By doing this, there is a chance that consumers might start trusting AI technologies, agreed the participants.

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To add to the problem, some products that used to be safe before, no longer appear to be so. And that is because they need to upgrade their systems, something they haven’t done yet, in order to be able to confront the sophisticated attacks cybercriminals are conducting to automated and digital products and technologies.

The European Union, governments and players in the AI market have been urged to increase investments in research and development of technologies that enable the improved and secure interoperability of products, as well as in services and in testbeds to ensure improved customer experience for AI users.

Find out more about the discussion.