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Alberta working on its first regulations governing artificial intelligence

No laws regulating the use of artificial intelligence exist in Alberta, but that is going to change soon, provincial officials say.  (CBC - image credit)
No laws regulating the use of artificial intelligence exist in Alberta, but that is going to change soon, provincial officials say. (CBC - image credit)

The Alberta government is developing artificial intelligence regulations that will be ready within the next 18 months, potentially as early as this fall.

That's according to a written statement from the office of the Ministry of Technology and Innovation.

The statement says the regulations will be part of an upcoming privacy protections update, and will "give Albertans the strongest privacy protections in Canada.

"We are also developing protections from deepfake technology to ensure those who create intimate images or video without consent face severe penalties."

Diane McLeod-McKay issued 17 recommendations to the Yukon government related to  the disclosure of the personal information of thousands of government and public sector employees.
Diane McLeod-McKay issued 17 recommendations to the Yukon government related to the disclosure of the personal information of thousands of government and public sector employees.

Diane McLeod is Alberta's information and privacy commissioner. (Submitted by Diane McLeod)

No laws regulating the use of artificial intelligence currently exist in Alberta.

According to Diane McLeod, Alberta's information and privacy commissioner, that needs to change, but it needs to be done right.

"Are we late? Not really," said McLeod, "Do we need to get a regulation in place? Yes, we do. But we need to make sure it's got all the right components."

McLeod, a lawyer, said figuring out what those right components are takes time.

"There's a lot of unknowns right now because it is such a new technology. We don't really know what it's capable of. We don't know what harms can come from it," she said.

"I am actually speaking to government ... talking to them about the need to develop something that is unique to Alberta."

McLeod was appointed to her role in 2022, after serving nine years in a similar capacity for the Yukon government.

EU, Canada also focused on AI regulations

On Wednesday, the European Union Parliament passed the Artificial Intelligence Act. It's the first governing body in the world to adopt comprehensive AI regulations.

The act bans or limits using AI in some situations.

The EU Parliament says the act "ensures safety and compliance with fundamental rights, while boosting innovation."

Those regulations are on track to take effect in 27 EU nations later this year.

In Canada, a federal bill regulating AI is making its way through Parliament. Bill C-27 is currently being studied by a parliamentary committee. There is no timeline on when — or if — it will become law.

The regulations the Alberta government is developing are distinct from the federal legislation.

AI Lawyer: Rules need to be flexible

No matter the jurisdiction, a University of Calgary assistant professor of law and AI argues rules need to be flexible to keep up with rapid advances in technology — which would help prevent the laws from having to be frequently updated.

"We should be looking more at principles, developing guiding principles as opposed to, you know, developing rigid legislation … interpretation of which can be done by the court," said Gideon Christian.

Privacy Commissioner McLeod agrees.

"It will have to be somewhat flexible as we move ahead, recognizing that legislation is not easily changed sometimes. But it needs to be high enough level so that it can apply in a broad set of circumstances," she said.