EU takes global first step towards formal AI regulation

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan May 15, 2023
Europe sets the pace for the US...

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The European Union (EU) looks set to steal a march on the rest of the world by implementing the first formal regulation around Artificial Intelligence (AI) - and it’s taking a tough stand on predictive tech! 

Late last week, the Internal Market Committee and the Civil Liberties Committee  of the EU adopted a draft negotiating mandate on AI rules with 84 votes in favor, seven against and 12 abstentions. The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) endorsed bans on biometric surveillance, emotion recognition, and predictive policing AI systems.

The accepted final version of the AI Act was substantially amended - 4000 amendments were filed in total - to include bans on intrusive and discriminatory uses of AI systems such as:

  • Real-time remote biometric identification systems in publicly accessible spaces
  • Post remote biometric identification systems, with the only exception of law enforcement for the prosecution of serious crimes and only after judicial authorization
  • Biometric categorisation systems using sensitive characteristics (e.g. gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship status, religion, political orientation)
  • Predictive policing systems (based on profiling, location or past criminal behavior)
  • Emotion recognition systems in law enforcement, border management, workplace, and educational institutions
  • Indiscriminate scraping of biometric data from social media or CCTV footage to create facial recognition databases (violating human rights and right to privacy)

EU co-rapporteur Brando Benifei (S&D, Italy) said: 

We are on the verge of putting in place landmark legislation that must resist the challenge of time. 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. 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.

Griff Ferris, Senior Legal and Policy Officer at Fair Trials, a global criminal justice watchdog, said:

This is a landmark result. This ban will protect people from incredibly harmful, unjust and discriminatory predictive policing and criminal prediction systems.

We’ve seen how the use of these systems repeatedly criminalises people, even whole communities, labelling them as criminals based on their backgrounds. These systems automate injustice, exacerbating and reinforcing racism and discrimination in policing and the criminal justice system, and feeding systemic inequality in society.

The next step now is to have the draft text endorsed by the full European Parliament next month. Asssuming that vote passes, negotiations will open with the European Council to agree a final form of legislation. 

My take

Once again, Europe takes a lead over the US when it comes to regulating the tech sector. 

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