EU AI Act: EU approves world’s first AI Bill – to set risk levels

The European Union has taken a groundbreaking step in the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) by approving the AI Act. The EU AI Act is a landmark legislation that sets comprehensive rules for AI technology. This significant move by the European Council marks a pivotal moment in AI governance, aiming to establish global standards for AI regulation and ensure the development and adoption of safe and trustworthy AI systems.

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Landmark Legislation for AI Regulation

The AI Act, officially approved by the European Council, introduces a risk-based approach to AI regulation, categorizing AI systems based on the level of risk they pose to society. This tiered classification system mandates different regulatory treatments for AI applications, with stringent regulations for high-risk systems and minimal transparency obligations for low-risk systems. The law prohibits the use of AI for practices such as cognitive behavioural manipulation, social scoring, and predictive policing based on profiling.

Governance and Enforcement Framework

To ensure effective enforcement of the AI Act, a new governance structure has been established. This includes the creation of an AI Office within the European Commission, a scientific panel of independent experts, an AI board with representatives from member states, and an advisory forum to provide technical expertise. The legislation also mandates penalties for non-compliance, with fines calculated based on the offending company’s global annual turnover.

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Protection of Fundamental Rights and Innovation

The AI Act emphasizes the protection of fundamental rights by requiring entities to conduct a fundamental rights impact assessment before deploying high-risk AI systems in public services. It also promotes transparency in the development and use of AI systems, with certain users of high-risk AI needing to be registered in the EU database. Furthermore, the legislation aims to foster innovation by providing an innovation-friendly legal framework and establishing AI regulatory sandboxes for testing innovative AI systems.

Global Impact and Compliance Challenges

The approval of the AI Act has implications beyond the EU, as companies outside the EU using EU customer data in their AI platforms will need to comply with the regulations. The legislation will become fully active in 2026, with bans on specific AI applications coming into effect in six months. Also, companies developing generative AI systems like ChatGPT and Gemini will have 36 months from the effective date to ensure compliance with the new law, presenting compliance challenges for major tech companies.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the EU’s approval of the AI Act represents a significant milestone in AI governance, setting a global standard for AI regulation and emphasizing trust, transparency, and accountability in the development and adoption of AI technology. This landmark legislation paves the way for a new era of AI regulation, balancing innovation with the protection of fundamental rights and societal well-being.

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