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EU Artificial Intelligence Act

The European Parliament has approved new laws governing AI

The European Parliament has approved new laws governing AI to reduce risk and improve transparency in a rapidly growing industry that could have significant impacts on business and society.

The Artificial Intelligence Act aims to protect “fundamental rights, democracy, the rule of law and environmental sustainability” from “high-risk” AI, the body said. It also includes limits on the use of biometric identification systems by law enforcement, bans on social scoring and the use of AI to exploit users.

Member states negotiated the wording of the Act in December 2023 – and MEPs broadly endorsed it – with 523 votes in favour, 46 against and 49 abstentions.

The Artificial Intelligence Act

The new rules ban AI applications that “threaten citizens’ rights”, including biometric categorisation systems based on sensitive characteristics and untargeted scraping of facial images from the internet or CCTV footage to create facial recognition databases.

It also cracks down on emotion recognition in the workplace and schools, social scoring, predictive policing and AI that manipulates human behaviour or exploits people’s vulnerabilities.

The use of biometric identification systems by law enforcement is effectively prohibited except in specific situations with prior authorisation. This could include a targeted search of a missing person or preventing a terrorist attack, the new rules state.

High-Risk AI Systems

Extra protections have been placed on high-risk AI systems, defined as those used in critical infrastructure, education and essential services such as healthcare or banking.

“Such systems must assess and reduce risks, maintain use logs, be transparent and accurate, and ensure human oversight. Citizens will have a right to submit complaints about AI systems and receive explanations about decisions based on high-risk AI systems that affect their rights,” reads the Act.

During the debate Brando Benifei, from the internal market committee, said:

 “We finally have the world’s first binding law on AI, to reduce risks, create opportunities, combat discrimination and bring transparency. Thanks to Parliament, unacceptable AI practices will be banned in Europe and the rights of workers and citizens will be protected.

“The AI Office will now be set up to support companies to start complying with the rules before they enter into force. We ensured that human beings and European values are at the very centre of AI’s development.”

Dragos Tudorache, from the civil liberties committee, said: 

“The EU has delivered. We have linked the concept of AI to the fundamental values that form the basis of our societies.

“However, much work lies ahead that goes beyond the AI Act itself. AI will push us to rethink the social contract at the heart of our democracies, our education models, labour markets, and the way we conduct warfare. The AI Act is a starting point for a new model of governance built around technology. We must now focus on putting this law into practice.”

While the Act has been approved, it has not entered law yet and will not be formally adopted until May. It will then be implemented in stages over a lengthy two-year process.


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