Since April 2021, we have been aware that the European Commission was interested in creating an EU regulatory framework for AI. As we discussed in our article ‘European Parliament approves proposal to regulate AI in the European Union’, this regulatory framework addresses AI systems that can be used in different applications, as well as their analysis and classification according to the risk they pose to users.
Since then, a lot of work has been done. As a matter of fact on 14 June 2023, the European Parliament approved the draft EU Artificial Intelligence Act ´(AI Act) with a majority support of 499 votes.
The European Parliament held a press conference stating that said approval brings the EU closer to a new era where the rules would ensure that AI developed and used in Europe is fully in line with EU rights and values including human oversight, safety, privacy, transparency, non-discrimination and social and environmental wellbeing.
Once in force, the AI Act would prohibit certain types of AI services and products, while limiting or imposing restrictions on others.
Among the prohibited practices are AI systems with an unacceptable level of risk to the security of individuals, such as those used for social scoring (ranking people on the basis of their social behaviour or personal characteristics). In addition, the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have expanded the list to include bans on intrusive and discriminatory uses of AI, such as the non-selective extraction of facial images from the internet or video surveillance footage to create facial recognition databases (which violates human rights and the right to privacy) or biometric categorisation systems that use sensitive characteristics (e.g. gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship status, religion, political orientation).
In addition, this Act will allow, under certain parameters, certain AI systems to be classified as high-risk (AI systems that could pose a risk to health, security, fundamental rights, the environment, democracy, and the rule of law) and subject to enhanced governance.
Finally, MEPs expressed their interest in and support with regard to the innovation and the protection of the EU citizens' rights.
In order to boost AI innovation and support SMEs, MEPs added exemptions for research activities and AI components provided under open-source licences.
In the AI context we are elaborating upon the European Parliament intends to boost citizen´s rights through the possibility for any individual to lodge AI related complaints and to receive explanations about decisions based on high-risk AI systems that significantly affect their fundamental rights. To this regard, the EU's Artificial Intelligence Office will oversee how the AI Act is implemented.
As a result, the final version of the AI Act is expected to be published by the end of 2023. However, the Regulation is expected to enter fully into force in 2026.
Undoubtedly, the European Union is currently at the international forefront as we are talking about the first legislative step in the world that regulates the use of AI. However, we will have to wait until the end of 2023 to review its final version.