The EU, for example, favors an oversight mechanism to mitigate the risks of AI systems, while the US prioritizes innovation and growth over the addressing potential dangers. On April 21, the European Commission announced its first-ever legal framework on AI, the Artificial Intelligence Act (AIA). The AIA may further widen the regulatory gulf between the EU and the US, already opened by Europe’s adoption in 2018 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the world’s most ambitious privacy regulation.
Indeed, data governance is another area on which the TTC is focusing. Data is becoming the lifeblood of the new global digitalized economy. The Fourth Industrial Revolution world will generate a vast amount of data, even more than is already produced today. Thus, regulating data in the IoT economy has become and will continue to be a crucial part of global governance. Considering the divergence of policy approaches taken by the US and EU within their respective jurisdictional territory, the likelihood of their setting mutually acceptable international standards for data through cooperative efforts is not promising.
Although both the US and the EU emphasize individual rights, their respective strategies for regulate data flows are fundamentally different. In a nutshell, the US adopts a laissez-faire, minimalist approach, while the EU believes in a relatively more interventionist but not authoritarian model. The US regards data as a form of capital to be shared and used to make a profit. As long as privacy is guaranteed, the US would allow limitless free flow of data across borders.
The Europeans, meanwhile, believe that individuals should have the ability to access and control the data they themselves generate. This is the principle behind the GDPR. The EU has recently released further data governance regulations including the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act, designed to be the rulebooks for the digital economy. Even though the EU and the US agree that individual rights are the most important values in governing data and managing a digital world, they still diverge in how to understand the core concepts in data governance, hence resulting in differing approaches to regulation. The US stresses individual freedom – that everyone has equal rights over data as long as privacy is protected – while the EU emphasizes that individuals should have sovereignty over their own data. This nuance could well be an unbridgeable divide.
Washington and Brussels have rebooted their technology alliance in large part due to Biden’s vow to re-engage traditional allies after his predecessor’s less-than-collegial ways. Indeed, the US and major EU member states are traditional allies with many affinities. Congruent interests and values, however, do not automatically lead to effective and productive cooperation. The revitalization of the transatlantic alliance has set the stage for greater collaboration but contending ideas about regulation and governance could prove a tough hurdle to get over. An impasse could open the way for alternative approaches such as those promoted by Beijing and Moscow to gain traction and legitimacy.