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The use of Artificial Intelligence in fundraising is becoming more and more widespread. With a legislative proposal for AI due from the European Commission imminently, our columnist Patrick Gibbels explores how nonprofits are using such technology and what this could mean for the sector.
The European Commission is about to propose a legislative package which aims to regulate Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Europe. More precisely, it aims to harmonise such rules across the EU.
There seems to be consensus amongst the EU Member States that a new regulatory framework for AI is needed to complement the applicable legislation, including those relating to consumer protection, data protection and privacy regimes.
Back in February, I wrote about the upcoming new EU rules on e-privacy and how this might affect civil society organisations and fundraising. At a time where public fundraising is limited, reliance on electronic communication is high. Any new measures that further increase the privacy and data protection of citizens, might reduce the ways in which charities and NGOs reach out to and keep track of existing and potential donors. Whilst the e-Privacy Regulation aims at protecting the privacy of EU citizens vis-a-vis digital communications in general, the upcoming framework on AI seeks to regulate an important element of these digital communications which is Artificial Intelligence. But how do fundraisers use Artificial Intelligence?
To some, AI might seem like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it is applied more broadly than one might think. The most common example of AI within civil society organisations is most likely in the use of chatbots. These are AI-driven automated chat machines which gather data from the user and rapidly develop ‘smart’ answers, based on these data. They are used on organisations’ websites to answer frequently asked questions but they can also be used within messenger apps or on social media platforms like Facebook.
AI powered tools can be used to identify prospective donors, and chatbots can offer them tailored information about a charity and engage in conversations by mining data from previous responses, before asking for donations. AI is also used within charities to analyse donor data and suggest how to personalise appeals. With all of this, a question of ethics arises, which the EU intends to tackle.
In the examples above, it is important to ensure that AI conversation does not turn into AI manipulation. The EU Commission proposes a “human-centric” approach to AI that respects the EU values and principles, and that features non-discrimination, fairness, accountability, transparency, and privacy. Under the new rules, citizens would have to be informed whenever they are interacting with an AI system, but organisations would also be asked to keep track of the data used to train the algorithms, and to ensure that EU values are respected when using this data, which could of course add additional regulatory and administrative burden.
Perhaps more importantly, there does not seem to be consensus at EU level about how all of this should be enforced. Earlier versions of the proposal suggested creating a new regulator at EU level, but the current version expresses a preference for existing national enforcement bodies to enforce the regulations. However, these bodies are already overloaded supervising the GDPR and other privacy regulations. This could lead to fragmented implementation and enforcement, and market distortions between the Member States.
It is important to find a balance between safeguarding EU values and applying ethics, whilst leaving flexibility for AI systems to be used for good causes. The proposal is at relatively early stages, expected to be tabled in April, and civil society organisations have an important role to play in the discussions regarding ethics in AI. So, watch this space. EFA will monitor further developments and report back.
Main photo (above) by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
About Patrick Gibbels
Patrick is EFA’s public affairs columnist in Brussels. He is the director of Gibbels Public Affairs. Follow Patrick @GPA_Brussels.
Read more from Patrick in our View from Brussels column here.