A major meeting has shaken up the artificial intelligence landscape. This meeting has seen the adoption of new legislation by the European Parliament, a law that promises to protect our health, safety, and fundamental rights from the possible perverse effects of AI.
Yesterday, 14 June, the European Parliament, in a resounding vote of 499 votes in favour, 28 against and 93 abstentions, has established its negotiating position on the long-awaited Artificial Intelligence Act. This law will now be subject to discussions with member states, where the final text will be defined. The aim of this legislation is to ensure that AI developed and used in Europe is fully in line with our rights and values, with stringent requirements including human oversight, security, privacy, transparency, non-discrimination, as well as social and environmental welfare.
However, the most striking aspect of this law is the prohibited practices that have been put in place to prevent risks and safeguard our rights. Providers and users of AI-based tools will have to comply with a series of obligations depending on the level of risk that artificial intelligence may present. Among the practices that have been completely banned are.
- Remote biometric identification systems, whether real-time or not, in public spaces.
- Biometric categorisation systems that use certain identity characteristics (e.g. gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship status, religion or political orientation).
- Predictive policing systems (based on profiling, location or criminal history).
- Emotion recognition systems by law enforcement, in border management, workplaces or educational institutions.
- The indiscriminate tracking of facial images taken from the internet or CCTV to create facial recognition databases (which violate human rights and the right to privacy).
But that is not all. MEPs also ensured that high-risk applications of AI are properly classified and regulated. This includes AI systems that may significantly affect the environment, health, safety, security, or fundamental rights of individuals. Surprisingly, systems used to influence voters and election results, as well as recommendation systems used by social media platforms with many users, have been added to the list.
In addition to these high-impact measures, the law also imposes obligations on generative AI systems based on these models, such as the famous ChatGPT, will also have to comply with additional transparency requirements, clearly identifying AI-generated content to help distinguish between authentic images and fakes. In addition, these systems will be required to be designed in such a way that they cannot generate illegal content. To further ensure transparency, detailed summaries of the copyrighted data used in the development of these systems will be required to be published.
But it is not all regulation and restrictions in this law. To encourage AI innovation and support small and medium-sized enterprises, MEPs have included exemptions for research projects and AI components supplied under open-source licences. In addition, "controlled test spaces" will be introduced, allowing companies to test AI in real environments under the supervision of public authorities before it is launched on the market.
Finally, this law also aims to make it easier for citizens to lodge complaints about AI systems and to obtain explanations about decisions generated by high-risk systems that may significantly affect our fundamental rights. MEPs have reformed the role of the European Office for Artificial Intelligence, giving it responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the regulatory framework on AI.
Brando Benifei MEP from Italy expressed his satisfaction with the adoption of this law and highlighted Europe's leadership in regulating AI. While big tech companies are warning about the consequences of their own creations, Europe has taken the initiative and proposed a concrete response to the risks that AI is starting to generate," he said. We want the positive potential of this tool for creativity and productivity to be brought under control. We will defend our position, for the sake of democracy and freedoms, during the negotiations with the Council".
In summary, the adoption of the Artificial Intelligence Act by the European Parliament represents a significant milestone in the regulation of AI. This law seeks to protect our rights and values by establishing clear prohibitions for intrusive and discriminatory practices, classifying, and regulating high-risk AI systems, imposing obligations for general-purpose AI and encouraging responsible innovation. Europe has taken up the challenge of guiding the development and governance of AI, ensuring that this powerful tool is at the service of humanity and safeguarding our democracy and fundamental rights. As the world watches closely, Europe is positioning itself as a beacon of hope in a sea of technological uncertainty.