European Parliament approves legislation to regulate AI use across the EU

The act introduces a tiered system of AI regulation based on perceived risk levels

European Parliament approves legislation to regulate AI use across the EU

The European Parliament has voted in favour of the Artificial Intelligence Act, with 523 votes to 46, paving the way for it to become EU law, the Law Society Gazette reported.

The legislation aims to regulate the use of artificial intelligence (AI) across the European Union, outlawing certain applications of the technology while imposing strict obligations on others. The act introduces a tiered system of AI regulation, categorizing applications based on their perceived risk levels. It outright bans using biometric categorization systems that identify sensitive characteristics and the untargeted scraping of facial images from the internet or CCTV footage.

Other prohibited uses of AI under the act include emotion recognition in workplaces and schools, social scoring, predictive policing based solely on profiling, and AI that manipulates human behaviour or exploits vulnerabilities.

Furthermore, the act establishes a comprehensive regulatory framework for high-risk systems, such as those used in critical infrastructure, education, employment, and law enforcement. Operators of these systems will be required to undertake risk assessments, maintain usage logs, ensure transparency and accuracy, and guarantee human oversight. Moreover, citizens will gain the right to lodge complaints about AI systems and demand explanations for decisions made by high-risk AI applications.

Additionally, the act mandates the clear labelling of artificial or manipulated images, audio, or video content. It also calls for the creation of an EU AI office tasked with supervising the implementation and enforcement of the legislation.

Italian member of the European Union (MEP), Brando Benifei, highlighted the significance of the act during the parliamentary debate, stating, “We finally have the world’s first binding law on artificial intelligence, to reduce risks, create opportunities, combat discrimination and bring transparency.”

The law will undergo a final lawyer-linguist review before its anticipated adoption later this year. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom proposed a "pro-innovation" approach to AI regulation.

Experts are advising AI system operators to align their practices with the forthcoming EU law. Marcus Evans, a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright, emphasizes the importance of establishing a robust AI governance program to ensure compliance and leverage AI technology effectively.

“Businesses can expect more detail in the coming months on the specific requirements, as the EU Commission establishes and staffs the AI office and begins to set standards and provide guidance on the act,” said Evans.

Meanwhile, Emma Wright of Harbottle & Lewis cautions that the act's cost of compliance could potentially hinder innovation, “The EU AI Act is the first significant attempt to regulate AI in the world – it remains to be seen whether the cost of compliance stifles innovation or whether the AI governance model that it establishes is a flagship export for the EU.”

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