Generative Artificial Intelligence: Its integration into customs and its regulation by the AI act

Generative AI has been in the spotlight in two recent areas: firstly, in November 2023, the WCO (World Customs Organization) issued a note announcing a significant growth in the use of generative AI in customs and international trade. Secondly, in December, the EU (European Union) adopted the AI Act, legislation aimed at better regulating the use of artificial intelligence.

Generative AI can be a time-saving tool. It utilizes language models to create original content, generate text, audio, images, autonomously, and even respond to questions.

This technology offers numerous advantages, including:

  • Multifunctionality: automatic writing, text classification, project management, negotiation, training, digital evidence collection, etc…
  • Natural language interaction, which simplifies technology adoption.
  • Cost-effectiveness: thanks to its production capacity, it reduces labor costs.
  • Optimization of analysis, automatically generating reports and summaries from large amounts of information.
  • Consistency in the production of administrative documents, thereby reducing human errors.

However, the introduction of AI into the customs field presents significant challenges, including its lack of explainability of results, training that can be based on erroneous data, its “hallucinations” (e.g., AI is capable of telling us that penguins can fly). Additionally, there is variability in its responses to the same question, concerns about data privacy, and the need to train officials to effectively use generative AI.

That’s why, on December 8th, 2023, the EU reached a provisional agreement on the AI Act. It aims to regulate the use of AI in Europe. This law imposes requirements such as the identification of creations made by AI, transparency regarding training data, strengthening of copyright, and limitations on surveillance of individuals. However, there are exceptions made by the member states concerning the latter aspect (which raises concerns about potential abuses).

Therefore, questions arise regarding the impact of the AI Act on research and innovation.

In summary, the use of generative AI in customs presents significant opportunities but also requires careful consideration of its use and limitations. Regulation of AI can be both reassuring and concerning, particularly in relation to research.

In any case, the development of these technologies will require a more profound reflection on how to responsibly integrate them into our societies.

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