EU lawmakers move closer to finalizing AI Act

The European Union (EU) is moving closer to resolving contentious issues to reach a consensus on the AI Act, which is likely to be one of the most comprehensive legislations to regulate the sale and use of AI.

The talks between 27 European Union member states, the European Commission, and the European Parliament continue for the third day in a row to resolve the controversial issues in the legislation.

As the use of generative AI continues to grow, it is imperative for lawmakers to expedite the process of regulating AI. The EU policymakers are keen to get the law passed before the EU parliamentary elections in June 2024.

The EU was one of the first regions to start working on regulations for AI technology in 2021. “It aims to ensure AI protects fundamental rights, democracy, the rule of law, and environmental sustainability while boosting innovation and making Europe a leader in the field,” said a note issued by the EU Parliament.

Resolving critical issues

The EU AI Act divides AI systems into four risk categories: minimal, limited, high, and unacceptable risk. It is likely to exempt free and open source AI licenses from regulation unless they come in the high-risk category, said the Reuters report. 

The European Commission would maintain a list of AI models that present a “systemic risk” while the providers of general purpose AI systems (GPAIS) will need to publish detailed summaries of the content used to train them.

This was initially challenged by France, Germany, and Italy, who were keen on a self-regulation model for GPAIS. They were of the opinion that harsh regulations would restrict European companies’ ability to compete with companies from other regions, according to the Reuters report.

Another contentious issue among EU lawmakers is the use of AI systems by law enforcement agencies for biometric identification of individuals in publicly accessible spaces.

While the EU Parliament was in favor of a complete ban to protect the fundamental rights of the people, EU member states are keen to have a system that would allow them to use AI-based systems for security purposes, according to a Bloomberg report.

Growth versus risks

Lawmakers are struggling to find a balance between using AI systems to boost economic and social growth while protecting themselves from several risks associated with the technology.

AI practitioners including Elon Musk, a prominent billionaire and founder of Tesla and SpaceX, have raised concerns several times in the recent past that AI is one of the “biggest threats” faced by humanity.

In the past, the EU has set a precedent by coming up with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was used as a framework by several countries to draft legislation to prevent the misuse of their citizens’ personal data.

“The EU AI Act would have implications for the innovation and competitiveness of the EU in the field of AI, as well as for the protection of fundamental rights and values of the EU citizens and residents,” said Tejasvi Addagada, senior vice president and head of enterprise data management at HDFC Bank. “It could foster trust, legal certainty, and ethical standards for the development and use of AI, which could enhance the social acceptance and uptake of AI solutions.” 

On the other hand, according to Addagada, the EU AI Act could impose additional costs, burdens, and barriers for the providers and users of AI, which could hamper the innovation and competitiveness of the EU in the global AI landscape.

Groups such as Digital Europe have voiced reservations against the AI Act. There is also a concern that self-regulation will put the onus of confirmation on the companies, which will overburden Small and Medium Enterprises, according to the European Digital SME Alliance.

Even if the members are able to resolve the contentious issues and the EU Parliament votes for the AI Act to become law in this session, it will be two years before the Act comes into effect. 

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.


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