The European Parliament has reached a significant milestone in AI regulation by adopting its position on the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act or AI Act. With a resounding majority of 499 votes in favor, 28 against, and 93 abstentions, this cross-party endorsement sets the stage for intense negotiations with the European Council, which finalized its position last year.
The timely start of trilogues, three-way negotiations involving the EP, European Commission, and European Council, immediately after the vote underlines the urgency of reaching a consensus before next year’s EP elections. The AI Act is set to become a landmark regulation that will shape AI governance not only within the EU but also across international jurisdictions.
The AI Act aims to regulate AI technology based on its potential to cause harm and follows a risk-based approach. It prohibits applications that pose an unacceptable risk while imposing strict regulations on high-risk use cases.
The decision to regulate AI comes at a crucial time, as the impact of AI continues to grow and shape various aspects of society. Dragoș Tudorache, one of the European Parliament’s co-rapporteurs on the AI Act, highlighted the importance of regulating AI due to its profound influence.
In this blog post, we will highlight the issues that will have a significant impact on their areas of focus, including the growth of the commons and the improved sharing of knowledge and culture.
Background and Key Concerns
The AI Act’s journey began in 2021 with a proposal by the European Commission and subsequent debates in the Parliament and Council. The Act initially focused on regulating specific AI uses, such as banning broad-based real-time biometric identification for law enforcement in public places and ensuring precautions for high-risk applications in areas like education, employment, and finance.
Over the past year, the Act’s scope expanded to encompass “general-purpose AI” (GPAI) and “foundation models.” These provisions affect technologies with a wide range of uses, both beneficial and potentially harmful, with varying levels of risk. Additionally, the Parliament introduced specific requirements for generative AI, including transparency measures related to copyright-protected training data.
The AI Act presents a number of challenges, including:
- Defining high-risk AI: The AI Act defines high-risk AI as AI that “presents significant risks to fundamental rights and values, such as the right to privacy, the right to non-discrimination, and the right to safety.” However, there is no clear definition of what constitutes a “significant risk.” This could lead to uncertainty and legal challenges.
- Balancing innovation and regulation: The AI Act seeks to balance the need to regulate AI in order to protect fundamental rights and values with the need to promote innovation. This is a difficult balance to strike, and it is likely that there will be disagreements about how to do it.
- Enforcing the AI Act: The AI Act will be enforced by national authorities in the EU. However, there is no clear mechanism for ensuring that national authorities will enforce the Act effectively. This could lead to uneven enforcement of the Act across the EU.
- International cooperation: The AI Act is a European Union (EU) regulation. However, AI is a global technology, and it is important for the EU to cooperate with other countries in order to regulate AI effectively. However, there is no clear mechanism for international cooperation on AI regulation.
These are just some of the challenges that the AI Act presents. It is likely that these challenges will be debated and discussed as the Act is finalized and implemented.
Here are some additional challenges that have been raised by experts:
- The AI Act could stifle innovation. The Act’s requirements could be burdensome for businesses, and they could discourage businesses from developing and using AI.
- The AI Act could be difficult to enforce. The Act’s requirements are complex, and it could be difficult for national authorities to enforce them effectively.
- The AI Act could be outdated quickly. AI is a rapidly evolving technology, and the Act could become outdated quickly.
It is important to note that these are just some of the challenges that have been raised about the AI Act. It is important to address these challenges in order to ensure that the AI Act is effective and workable.
Some of the popular public statements on the EU’s AI Act:
- From the European Commission:
“The Artificial Intelligence Act is a landmark piece of legislation that will ensure that AI is developed and used in a way that respects our fundamental rights and values. It will help to create a trusted environment for the development and use of AI in the EU, while also ensuring that Europe remains at the forefront of this important technology.”
— Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age
- From the European Parliament:
“The AI Act is a historic achievement that will help to ensure that AI is used for good in the EU. It sets out clear rules for the development and use of AI, while also protecting fundamental rights and values. This is a major step forward for the EU in its efforts to become a global leader in AI.”
— Dragos Tudorache, Rapporteur for the AI Act
- From the European Council:
“The AI Act is a balanced and proportionate piece of legislation that will help to ensure that AI is developed and used in a way that respects our fundamental rights and values. It will also help to create a level playing field for businesses in the EU, while also supporting innovation.”
— Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market
- From civil society organizations:
“The AI Act is a significant step forward in the regulation of AI, but it is not perfect. We are concerned about the lack of clarity on some of the key provisions, such as the definition of high-risk AI. We also believe that the Act does not go far enough in protecting fundamental rights, such as the right to privacy. We will continue to work with policymakers to ensure that the final Act is strong and effective.”
— Privacy International
- From the tech industry:
“The AI Act is a complex piece of legislation that will have a significant impact on the tech industry. We welcome the fact that the Act takes a risk-based approach, but we are concerned about some of the requirements, such as the need to obtain prior approval for certain AI systems. We will continue to work with policymakers to ensure that the final Act is practical and workable.”
— The European Association for the Digital Economy (Ecommerce Europe)
These are just a few of the many public statements that have been made about the EU’s AI Act. The Act is still in the drafting process, so it is likely that there will be further public statements as the process unfolds.
The Act’s requirements should be proportionate and should not stifle innovation. The Act should also be clear and easy to enforce. Finally, the Act should be reviewed regularly to ensure that it remains up-to-date with the latest developments in AI