An online seminar on “AI and Robot Law Virtual Workshop - Privacy and Ethics Focus” was co-hosted by the National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University School of Law and The Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences of Tohoku University on November 23, 2021. The seminar was a cross-disciplinary discussion of research results on robotics-related topics. One of the speakers was Dr. Mona Naomi Lintvedt from the Norwegian Research Center for Computers and Law of the University of Oslo, established in 1970. Dr. Naomi has a very long background working with IT law and especially digitalization in the public sector and the use of AI and algorithms.
The title of Dr. Naomi’s report was “Vulnerability in the Robot Society.” Dr. Naomi said that it is the first time her project team had a project related to robots. This is a cooperative project, so their team will collaborate with the faculty of law and the department of informatics of the University of Oslo. The team will be able to work closely with robotics design, instead of only doing theoretical work. It is also an international project, so the team will work with specialists from Japan. She introduced a newly purchased robot from their robot lab. The robot will work as a research platform, and it was purchased for research purposes. The robot doesn’t have any advanced functionalities, but it has a software platform so it can be programmed. She reported that her objective for the project is to address the challenges which robotics pose to humans in security, privacy, and safety. Her project team focuses on the processing of personal data, which is a strong research topic relating to privacy and data protection. They also want to incorporate issues of human robot interaction. And in that respect, they will examine existing legal and ethical frameworks, and possible future regulation of robots. There is a lot of regulatory work happening in the European Union. Although Norway is not part of the European Union, they do take part in that regulation, which means that they implement their regulation. At the same time, Europe is not the strongest producer of robotics, so it is very necessary for them to look at other countries, especially Asia, for example, regarding how Asian robots fit into the European regulatory landscape.
Dr. Naomi said that the physical presence of a robot will also raise questions when it comes to human robot interaction and how we perceive these robots in our daily lives. These also raised issues when it comes to privacy, the right to private life, and what kind of technologies you are expected to have. She pointed out an industrial type of robot has actually been used in hospital settings during the pandemic for triage purposes, which means that we also must take into account robots being manufactured for completely different purposes may be put in other settings, and it also raises questions about how we perceive these robots. There is a project that one of the roboticists is working on to have fewer personal data about a person and to mask more physical presence of a person by assessing different sensors, and different uses of camera so that the robots can still function. One example of the use of sensors is the use of a thermal camera, which detects the skeletal activities. Dr. Naomi thinks maybe they can program the robot to react to those motions instead of having a clear image of a person. This also brings up questions about privacy and data minimization, which are important principles in the European data protection regulation, creating challenges when it comes to robotics design. Dr. Naomi mentioned that there is a lot of robotics research focusing on users, and how we can preserve user privacy. But a question we also need to look at is the person may be a nurse, caretaker, visitor, family member or just a random person in the same room, at the hospital, in the care facility, or out on the street. Therefore, we also need to protect other person’s information. And that is why this project includes privacy and safety. However, safety cannot be compromised to the degree which minimizes personal data so much that the robot is not able to understand its environment. Dr. Naomi’s team has been working on this project for around a year, and their project will run into 2024.