The European Commission has unveiled a proposal that would ban “AI systems considered a clear threat to the safety, livelihoods, and rights of people.” The proposal includes stricter rules for several uses of AI, such as the use of biometrics by law enforcement agencies, autonomous driving, and online advertising algorithms. It also bans practices that “manipulate persons through subliminal techniques beyond their consciousness” or that exploit vulnerable groups like children or people with disabilities. Notably, the proposal singles out government-conducted social scoring, a prevalent system in China that measures an individual’s trustworthiness.
Companies that break the rules can be fined up to 6% of their global turnover, which for large corporations, could be extremely costly.
Ursula von der Leyen, the chief of the EU’s executive arm, has made AI regulation her priority. On April 21, she tweeted: “Artificial Intelligence is a fantastic opportunity for Europe. And citizens deserve technologies they can trust. Today we present new rules for trustworthy AI. They set high standards based on the different levels of risk and mark the most important international effort at AI regulation.”
The proposal still needs to be approved by the EU Parliament and EU Council, and it is likely to face some revisions before the final version is completed. EU states will then implement the finalized rules with their own laws.
Many in the tech community are less than thrilled about the Commission’s attempt at regulation. The definition of “high-risk” AI is ambiguous and is being determined by non-tech people who don’t necessarily have the greatest understanding of the industry.
On the other side of the fence, people are disappointed with the Commission’s proposal for being too lax and allowing tech companies and governments too much leeway. Ella Jakubowska, the policy and campaigns officer at European Digital Rights (EDRi), said she wanted the Commission to “take a bolder stance.”
With new rules surrounding fairly new technology, it’s unlikely that people on all sides will be pleased.
Europe Positioning Itself as World Leader of Tech Regulations
The European Commission’s proposed AI regulations will not only affect European companies, but any company that wants to operate in the bloc. Tech companies will have less than two years to comply with the new regulations (once approved). Compliance would include providing risk assessments to regulators and informing users when trying to use AI to detect emotion or classify people according to sex, age, race, and more.
By being the first to propose AI regulation, Europe is positioning itself as a leader in the field while making room for its allies to get on board. In fact, by being the first to propose regulation, it will likely pave the way for other countries to feel more comfortable about drafting their own.