European Union Becomes Global Power to Enact AI Laws

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Consumers gain rights to lodge complaints with violations incurring fines ranging from 7.5 million euros to 35 million euros.

On Friday, Europe achieved a provisional agreement on significant European Union (EU) regulations overseeing artificial intelligence use, including government usage of AI in biometric surveillance and the regulation of AI systems like ChatGPT. This move positions the EU as potentially the first major global power to enact AI laws. The deal, resulting from extensive negotiations, was reached between EU countries and European Parliament members.

The agreement mandates foundational models such as ChatGPT and general-purpose AI systems to adhere to transparency obligations before market introduction, including technical documentation, EU copyright law compliance, and providing detailed training content summaries. Consumers gain rights to lodge complaints and obtain meaningful explanations, with violations incurring fines ranging from 7.5 million euros to 35 million euros or 1.5% to 7% of global turnover, respectively.

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High-impact foundational models with systemic risk are required to conduct model evaluations, assess and mitigate risks, undergo adversarial testing, report serious incidents to the European Commission, ensure cybersecurity, and report on energy efficiency. Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence or GPAIs with systemic risks can use codes of practice to meet the new regulations.

The deal limits government use of real-time biometric surveillance in public spaces to specific scenarios, like crime victim cases, preventing genuine threats, and finding individuals suspected of serious crimes. It also prohibits cognitive behavioural manipulation, unauthorised scraping of facial images, social scoring, and biometric categorization systems for inferring personal beliefs or characteristics.

However, the business community and privacy rights groups have criticised the regulations. DigitalEurope views the rules as an additional corporate burden, while European Digital Rights expresses concerns about the legalisation of live public facial recognition in the EU. The law is expected to be ratified early next year and applied two years later.

Globally, governments are trying to strike a balance between the benefits and the need for regulatory frameworks for AI technologies. Europe’s AI legislation emerges amidst growing AI applications by companies like OpenAI and Google’s Alphabet, potentially serving as an alternative model to the approaches of the United States and China.

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