The EU just passed one of the world’s strongest AI laws


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Perhaps the world’s most substantial set of AI rules yet is on its way to becoming the law of the land (well, the European Union, at least).

The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor the AI Act on Wednesday, bringing with it a slew of implications for businesses operating in EU countries. The far-reaching legislation covers everything from facial recognition to chatbots and could serve as something of a blueprint for other countries looking to regulate the technology.

“Today is again, an historic day on our long path toward regulation of AI,” Brando Benefei, a parliament member and co-rapporteur of the AI Act, said at a press conference. “[This is] the first regulation in the world that is putting a clear path toward a safe and human-centric development of AI.”

What the law says: The legislation bans outright the “untargeted scraping of facial images from the internet or CCTV footage to create facial-recognition databases” (though certain law enforcement exceptions are carved out), use of “emotion recognition” AI in school or the workplace, and AI that “manipulates human behavior or exploits people’s vulnerabilities.”

Larger, more powerful AI models will be subject to more rigorous testing and development rules, such as additional mandatory disclosures and quality requirements around training data. And companies will be required to disclose to consumers whether content is AI-generated.

What happens next: Three years after the law was first proposed, it will start to take effect in the coming months through a gradual process. The bans on “prohibited practices” will take effect first, about six and a half months after the law is published, then other measures will roll out over the course of the next few years.

What it means: Like the EU’s landmark General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the AI Act’s effects will be felt far beyond the EU’s borders, according to Stephen Weymouth, distinguished associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and author of the book Digital Globalization: Politics, Policy, and a Governance Paradox.

“Everyone’s affected by this. From a perspective of a US firm, which is not as accustomed to the regulatory approaches to the digital economy that the Europeans have put forward—not only with the EU AI Act, but with other things like GDPR—this is going to be a big deal,” Weymouth told Tech Brew. “Firms need to get on top of this as soon as possible.”

As far as whether other countries follow the EU’s lead here, that remains to be seen.

“It’s often the case that there is a Brussels effect,” Weymouth said. “And they often have kind of a first-mover position here in regulatory matters, and other countries, because they need to comply, often adopt similar approaches down the road. So I’m sure that’s what the Europeans are hoping for, and we’ll see if that plays out.”



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