European Parliament Adopts Groundbreaking AI Act

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The European Parliament took a significant step forward in the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI). It adopted its negotiating position on the EU’s groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act. With an overwhelming majority of 499 votes in favor, 28 against, and 93 abstentions, this move paves the way for final negotiations with EU member states. The Act aims to foster the development and use of human-centric and trustworthy AI. This implies safeguarding health, security, fundamental rights, and democracy from potential harms.

What the AI Act Prohibits

The AI Act establishes a risk-based approach, imposing obligations on both AI providers and users. The level of risk associated with AI systems determines the specific obligations to ensure compliance. Especially, regarding human oversight, safety, privacy, transparency, non-discrimination, and social and environmental well-being.

To protect individuals, the Act prohibits certain AI practices that pose an unacceptable risk to safety and well-being. These include social scoring based on personal characteristics or behavior. Moreover, the Act now extends the list of banned practices to encompass “real-time” remote biometric identification systems in public spaces. Furthermore, “post” remote biometric identification systems are only allowed in cases of law enforcement for serious crimes and are subject to judicial authorization. The Act also outlaws biometric categorization systems using sensitive, discriminatory characteristics such as for example gender, race, ethnicity, and religion. Also prohibted are predictive policing systems based on profiling or past criminal behavior. This extends to emotion recognition systems in law enforcement, border management, workplaces, and educational institutions. Finally, not allowed is the untargeted scraping of facial images from the internet or CCTV footage to create facial recognition databases, due to potential privacy infringement.

High-risk Classification

The Act classifies high-risk AI as systems that may cause substantial harm to health, safety, fundamental rights, or the environment. Examples of high-risk AI are systems influencing voters and elections, including those in social media with over 45 million users.

The Act also introduces obligations for general-purpose AI. Providers of foundation models, including emerging technologies like Open AI, must assess and mitigate potential risks. Additionally, they must register their models in the EU database before releasing them on the market. Generative AI systems based on these models, like ChatGPT, are required to meet transparency requirements by disclosing AI-generated content and distinguishing deep-fake images from real ones. Moreover, safeguards must be implemented to prevent the generation of illegal content. Furthermore, detailed summaries of copyrighted data used for training these systems are to be made publicly available.

Exemptions

To strike a balance between innovation and citizen protection, the Act introduces exemptions for research and open source AI components. The law further supports the creation of regulatory sandboxes, allowing public authorities to test AI in real-life environments before deployment.

To ensure accountability and citizen empowerment, the Act enhances citizens’ rights to file complaints regarding AI systems and receive explanations for decisions made by high-risk AI systems that significantly impact their fundamental rights. Simultaneously, the role of the EU AI Office will be reformed to oversee the implementation of the AI rulebook.

Pivotal

Following this pivotal vote, co-rapporteur Brando Benifei (S&D, Italy) stated, “While Big Tech companies are sounding the alarm over their own creations, Europe has gone ahead and proposed a concrete response to the risks AI is starting to pose.” Benifei highlighted the aim of harnessing AI’s positive potential while staunchly protecting Europe’s democracies and freedoms during negotiations with the Council.

Co-rapporteur Dragos Tudorache (Renew, Romania) emphasized the Act’s global significance. He states that “The AI Act will set the tone worldwide in the development and governance of artificial intelligence.”

The adoption of the negotiating position is only the beginning. Negotiations with the Council to finalize the law will commence shortly, shaping the future of AI regulation within the EU.

Stay tuned for more updates as this historic legislation continues to unfold!

Founder and CEO of Icecat NV. Investor. Ph.D.

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