The Gist

  • The Brussels Effect. The European Parliament's committees have adopted a preliminary mandate for proposed AI regulations, which would ban high-risk AI systems, prohibit real-time biometric systems and enhance regulations for AI developers.
  • First significant rules for AI. If passed, the regulations would classify AI systems as high-risk based on their potential to generate unacceptable levels of risk.
  • Additional rules for developers. Developers of foundation models would be required to register in an EU database and follow specific design and information requirements.

The European Union (EU) certainly doesn’t lead the world in AI development — trailing significantly behind the U.S. and China. But it is a revolutionary leader in the creation of AI regulation and standards — a phenomenon known as the “Brussels effect” — trailblazing a path that AI developers across the globe are closely watching.

On Thursday, two committees of the European Parliament made significant progress on that path by adopting a preliminary mandate, that once approved, would represent the first global rules on artificial intelligence. The mandate draft, which overwhelmingly passed with 84 in favor and seven against, outlines the EU’s proposed negotiating position on AI regulation and will serve as the basis for further negotiations with other bodies, such as the European Commission and the Council of the European Union, to create a final version for a vote.

As a member of the European Parliament (MEP) and co-sponsor (co-rapporteur) of the draft mandate, Brando Benifei of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) political group from Italy, shared his belief that the EU is on the verge of establishing “landmark legislation.”

“It is crucial to build citizens’ trust in the development of AI, to set the European way for dealing with the extraordinary changes that are already happening, as well as to steer the political debate on AI at the global level,” Benifei said. “We are confident our text balances the protection of fundamental rights with the need to provide legal certainty to businesses and stimulate innovation in Europe.”

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AI Regulations: Ban on High-Risk Systems

The proposed regulations include a news risk assessment approach based on the level of risk the AI could generate. AI systems that are deemed to pose an unacceptable level of risk, would be banned, including those that use subliminal or manipulative techniques, exploit vulnerabilities, or create social scoring systems that classify individuals based on their social behavior, personal characteristics, or socio-economic status.

Other high-risk areas include any threats to people's health, safety, fundamental rights or the environment. Further, AI systems that aim to influence voters in political campaigns, as well as recommender systems used by social media platforms with more than 45 million users would be classified as “high risk.”

AI Ban on Real-Time Biometric Systems

The proposed mandate aims to prohibit the usage of AI systems in a manner that is intrusive or discriminatory, with exceptions made for law enforcement and judicial purposes. This includes a ban on biometric data (tech that analyzes an individual’s unique physical or behavioral characteristics), such as facial recognition, fingerprints, iris scans or voiceprints), to categorize people or to verify their identity in “real-time” systems placed in public areas — including the collection of biometric data from social media or CCTV footage to create facial recognition databases.

Learning Opportunities

Also banned, policing systems that use profiling, location tracking, or past criminal records to predict crime and systems used to recognize emotions in law enforcement, border control, workplaces and educational institutions.

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AI Developers Face Enhanced Regulation

As for developers of foundation models (pre-trained AI models that serve as a starting point for developing more specific AI applications) — they would be required to register in an EU database and follow a specific process that entails design and information requirements that aim to protect fundamental rights, health, safety, the environment, democracy and the rule of law.

ChatGPT and other Generative AI models would have even more requirements involving disclosure and training mandates as well as copyright regulations.

The mandate also includes language supporting innovation and protecting citizens' rights. It also designates the EU AI Office with monitoring how the AI rulebook is implemented. The vote is expected to take place in June.

“Given the profound transformative impact AI will have on our societies and economies, the AI Act is very likely the most important piece of legislation in this mandate,” MEP Dragos Tudorache, co-rapporteur from Romania, said. “It’s the first piece of legislation of this kind worldwide, which means that the EU can lead the way in making AI human-centric, trustworthy and safe.”

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