Several NGOs are calling on the government to reconsider the agreement with the UAE on artificial intelligence | technology

The cooperation agreement signed last week between the Spanish government and the ADIA laboratory, a research center for artificial intelligence (AI) in the United Arab Emirates, continues to cause alarm. A group of NGOs working for digital and fundamental rights expressed their disagreement with the agreement through an open letter deeming it morally questionable to have scientific relations with a country that systematically violates human rights. Especially when it comes to collaboration, AI can be a very effective tool in these rights abuses.

The organizations AlgoRace, AlgoRights, lafede.cat and DigitalFems, which promote the document, state that, according to Amnesty International’s annual report, the UAE government is committing “gross human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests, cruel and inhumane treatment in detention, and repression of freedom of expression and violation of The right to privacy.” For its part, Human Rights Watch also denounced the use in this country of surveillance technologies banned in the European Union, such as facial recognition in public places or “Israeli digital spy tools”. It has also been documented that the country continues to repeatedly violate the rights of women and LGTBI people.

The open letter, sent today to Nadia Calvinho, First Vice President of Government and Minister for Economic Affairs and Digitalization, and Carme Artigas, Secretary of State for Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence, has gathered dozens of supporters in the past 24 hours to its publications, including SOS Racismo or Rights International Spain. As EL PAÍS announced on Wednesday, three members of Amnesty International’s advisory board resigned last week in protest of the agreement signed with the UAE. They see no work compatible with ethical AI and at the same time have deals with an absolutist-funded think tank that has questioned scientists at the Academy in its ranks. Two of the experts who left the advisory body, as well as two other Spanish AI leaders, have published a forum in this paper explaining why we are concerned about the agreement.

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The ADIA Laboratory is a science center funded by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), the richest emirate in the United Arab Emirates, with assets estimated at about $800,000 million. “Spain has agreed to a research agenda with a scientific center funded by a government that does not recognize the independence of science, and tramples on human rights, particularly of women, LGTBQI+ communities and immigrants, whose wealth comes mainly from oil.” , the experts point out in the letter published in EL PAÍS.

Asked by this newspaper about the scientists’ objections to the agreement, sources from the Secretary of State replied that they consider it “very positive that an institution of scientific standing that has Nobel laureates on its board chooses to establish itself in Spain rather than in other European countries such as France or Germany.

The agreement provides for the upcoming opening in Granada of the European headquarters of the ADIA Laboratory, the Emirati Center, as well as the launch of five research lines related to artificial intelligence. This relates to episodic analysis and experimental design in public health; economic modeling of climate change and its mitigation policies; digital economy, decentralized registration technology, and tokenization; High-performance computing, explainable AI, and reliable automation.

“We wonder how the independence of scientific research focused on economic modeling of climate change and its mitigation policies will be ensured given that oil is the main source of income for the United States,” the NGO points out in its writings.

These organizations request to meet with the Secretary of State “to discuss how to ensure the protection of human rights with the aforementioned cooperation within the European framework.” The promoters of the letter regret that the department did not take into account the votes of human rights and digital rights organizations, as promised by Artigas, the head of the department, in a meeting he held last year with various civil society organizations. .

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They also call on the ministry for more transparency, especially with regard to how the investment of more than five million euros is committed to the project, and the signing of a public document declaring “scientific and ethical integrity, as well as the protection of fundamental rights, in the implemented projects.”

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