June 5, 2024
Europe's Landmark AI Act Set Global Standard

Europe’s Landmark AI Act Set Global Standard

Europe’s landmark regulations on artificial intelligence will come into effect next month following EU countries’ endorsement of a political deal reached in December. This sets a potential global standard for AI technology used in business and everyday life. The European Union’s AI Act is more comprehensive than the United States’ light-touch voluntary compliance approach, while China’s approach aims to maintain social stability and state control.

Legislative Progress and Global Concerns

The vote by EU countries came two months after EU lawmakers supported the AI legislation, which was initially drafted by the European Commission in 2021 and underwent several key amendments. Concerns about AI’s role in spreading misinformation, fake news, and infringing on copyrighted material have intensified globally with the rise of generative AI systems such as Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s chatbot Gemini.

“This landmark law, the first of its kind in the world, addresses a global technological challenge that also creates opportunities for our societies and economies,” stated Belgian digitization minister Mathieu Michel. “With the AI Act, Europe emphasizes the importance of trust, transparency, and accountability when dealing with new technologies while at the same time ensuring this fast-changing technology can flourish and boost European innovation,” he added.

Key Provisions and Global Impact

The AI Act imposes stringent transparency obligations on high-risk AI systems, though requirements for general-purpose AI models will be less severe. It restricts governments’ use of real-time biometric surveillance in public spaces to specific circumstances, such as certain crimes, the prevention of terrorist attacks, and searches for individuals suspected of serious crimes.

According to Patrick van Eecke of the law firm Cooley, the new legislation will extend beyond the 27-country bloc. “The Act will have global reach. Companies outside the EU who use EU customer data in their AI platforms will need to comply. Other countries and regions are likely to use the AI Act as a blueprint, just as they did with the GDPR,” he said, referring to EU privacy rules.

While the new legislation will take effect in 2026, bans on the use of artificial intelligence in social scoring, predictive policing, and untargeted scraping of facial images from the internet or CCTV footage will be enforced six months after the regulation enters into force. Obligations for general-purpose AI models will come into effect after 12 months, and rules for AI systems embedded into regulated products will apply after 36 months.

Fines for violations of the AI Act range from 7.5 million euros ($8.2 million) or 1.5% of turnover to 35 million euros or 7% of global turnover, depending on the severity of the violations.

Image by Wi Pa from Pixabay

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