EU Council New AI Law Sets Global Standard for AI Regulation


On 21 May 2024, the European Union’s Council officially approved the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act, marking the world’s first comprehensive regulatory framework for AI. According to the organization of 27 countries in Europe, the legislation adopts a ‘risk-based’ approach, imposing stricter rules on AI systems that pose higher risks to society. The new AI Act is hoped to foster safe and trustworthy AI development across the EU’s single market, while ensuring the protection of fundamental rights and stimulating innovation.

To enforce these regulations, the Act establishes several governance bodies, including an AI Office within the European Commission, a scientific panel of independent experts, an AI Board with member state representatives, and an advisory forum for stakeholder expertise. Violations of the AI Act will result in significant fines based on a company’s global annual turnover.

The AI Act categorizes AI systems based on risk levels, from low-risk systems with minimal transparency requirements to high-risk systems subject to stringent regulations. Prohibited AI practices include cognitive behavioral manipulation, social scoring, and predictive policing based on profiling. General-purpose AI models are also regulated, with stricter rules for those posing systemic risks.

Transparency and the protection of fundamental rights are central to the AI Act, says the EU. High-risk AI systems used in public services will require a fundamental rights impact assessment, and users must be informed when exposed to emotion recognition systems. An EU database will register high-risk AI systems and certain public entities using these systems.

The Act also promotes innovation through AI regulatory sandboxes, allowing for the development and testing of innovative AI systems in controlled environments.

The AI Act will be published in the EU’s Official Journal and will come into force 20 days after publication, with full application starting two years later. This landmark legislation, proposed by the European Commission in April 2021, represents a significant step in ensuring AI technologies are developed and deployed safely and ethically within the EU.

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