Oikeusministeri Antti Häkkäsen puhe Tietopoliittisen selonteon kansainvälinen etiikka -seminaarissa Säätytalolla 2.5.2018

Oikeusministeriö 2.5.2018 14.39

Chairperson, dear audience

The breakthrough of digitalization and artificial intelligence will have a profound impact on the world around us. To start with the positive, artificial intelligence has potential for inclusive and transparent governance, better public services and enhancing the realization of human rights. This also applies to administration of justice, as for instance easier access to services and more efficient procedures can be promoted.

Finland is considered to have a high potential for economic growth from artificial intelligence. We are one of the leading countries in the digitalization of public services, and we have a long history of collecting administrative data with high integrity.

The primary task for this working group is to outline the key ethical challenges in the use of AI and seek new responses to them. As recent examples show, unethical use of personal data is a real threat in the digital economy. In the face of new realities, we urgently need to develop ethical practices and safeguard compliance with human rights standards. Questions related to fundamental rights in general, and data protection in particular, simply cannot be pushed to the sidelines.

Availability of data resources and free flow of personal data are essential for efficient use of artificial intelligence. At the same time, the right to privacy and the protection of personal data are fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Finland. “Big data” makes it possible to combine detailed information on individual citizens and can threaten the right to privacy. The difficult challenge ahead is to find the balance between these two aims, and define the ethical limits for use of personal data. This applies both to the public and the private sector.

Another important issue concerns algorithmic bias and the right to equal treatment¬, which is also a fundamental right. International examples show that automated algorithms can be biased against some population groups. When algorithms are trained to mimic human decisions, existing biases in such decisions can become embedded in the algorithmic decisions, as well. Questions related to monitoring the fairness of algorithms as well as aspects related to liability need to be raised.

From the point of view of citizen engagement, transparency in the use of algorithms is of paramount importance. Citizens need to know what kind of personal data is being used and how it is being used. One way of increasing public trust in AI-based solutions is better communication and more transparent description of the algorithms used.


To conclude, I would like to thank the organizers for an interesting seminar. From the Ministry of Justice point of view, we are happy to see that human rights and questions of privacy and non-discrimination have a high priority in this work. We will also need enhanced international cooperation to collect best practice, codes of conduct and other relevant information concerning digitalization and artificial intelligence, including in the context of human rights.

Although these questions are by no means easy to answer, the potential gains are also substantial. Given the global reach of these topics, Finland has the opportunity to be a frontrunner in defining and implementing ethical AI applications.

Thank you.

Antti Häkkänen