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As the world witnesses the transformative potential of AI across industries, this agreement sets a precedent for international cooperation in navigating the complexities of AI governance. Lionel BONAVENTURE/AFP News

A non-binding agreement spanning 20 pages, signed by 18 countries, was unveiled on Sunday. The document stipulates that companies must design artificial intelligence (AI) with the imperative of safeguarding the public from potential misuse.

The United States, the United Kingdom and a coalition of a dozen countries have jointly announced a pioneering pact to ensure that AI technologies are 'secure by design.'

The agreement hailed as a milestone in the global efforts to govern emerging technologies, signals a united front to address the growing concerns surrounding AI security.

While the agreement is non-binding and largely comprises broad recommendations, such as the monitoring of AI systems for abuse, safeguarding data against tampering and scrutinising software suppliers, Jen Easterly, the Director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, emphasised the significance of numerous countries endorsing the idea that prioritising safety in AI systems is paramount.

The participating nations have committed to collaboratively establishing a framework that prioritises the development and deployment of AI systems with robust security measures at their core.

The announcement comes at a time when AI is becoming increasingly integrated into various aspects of daily life, from autonomous vehicles to healthcare systems, raising concerns about potential vulnerabilities and risks associated with these technologies.

The core principle of the initiative is to ensure that AI systems are designed with security as a foundational element, rather than treating it as an afterthought.

This approach, commonly referred to as 'secure by design', aims to proactively embed security features into the development process, reducing the likelihood of exploitation and enhancing overall resilience.

"This is the first time that we have seen an affirmation that these capabilities should not just be about cool features and how quickly we can get them to market or how we can compete to drive down costs," said Easterly.

She further added that the guidelines depicted "an agreement that the most important thing that needs to be done at the design phase is security".

The statement highlighted the potential benefits of AI in driving economic growth, innovation and societal progress while acknowledging the imperative to safeguard against potential misuse and security threats.

An initiative forwarded is the establishment of an international working group comprising experts from participating countries.

This group shall be tasked with developing technical standards, best practices and guidelines for implementing security measures in AI systems.

The goal is to create a harmonised approach that facilitates the exchange of knowledge and expertise while fostering innovation in the AI space.

Alongside the United States and Britain, the 18 nations endorsing the new guidelines encompass Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Australia, Chile, Israel, Nigeria and Singapore.

The framework addresses concerns about preventing the hijacking of AI technology by hackers and incorporates recommendations, such as releasing models only after undergoing thorough security testing.

The initiative also envisions the creation of a global certification mechanism for AI products, providing consumers and businesses with assurance that the deployed AI systems meet stringent security standards.

This certification process is anticipated to bolster public trust in AI technologies and encourage responsible development practices.

While this pact represents a significant step forward in the global governance of AI, challenges remain in implementing and enforcing the agreed-upon principles.

The participating nations are cognisant of the need for ongoing collaboration, information sharing and adaptability to address the dynamic nature of AI technologies.

As the world witnesses the transformative potential of AI across industries, this agreement sets a precedent for international cooperation in navigating the complexities of AI governance.

By prioritising security in the design and deployment of AI systems, the participating nations aim to foster innovation while safeguarding against potential risks, ultimately shaping a more secure and responsible AI landscape for the future.