Authorities worldwide are racing to rein in artificial intelligence, including in the European Union, where groundbreaking legislation is set to pass a key hurdle Wednesday.
European Parliament lawmakers are due to vote on the proposal — including controversial amendments on facial recognition — as it heads toward passage.
A yearslong effort by Brussels to draw up guardrails for AI has taken on more urgency as rapid advances in chatbots like ChatGPT show the benefits the emerging technology can bring — and the new perils it poses.
How Do the Rules Work?
The measure, first proposed in 2021, will govern any product or service that uses an artificial intelligence system. The act will classify AI systems according to four levels of risk, from minimal to unacceptable.
Riskier applications, such as for hiring or tech targeted to children, will face tougher requirements, including being more transparent and using accurate data.
Violations will draw fines of up to 30 million euros ($33 million) or 6% of a company’s annual global revenue, which in the case of tech companies like Google and Microsoft could amount to billions.
It will be up to the EU’s 27 member states to enforce the rules.
What Are the Risks?
One of the EU’s main goals is to guard against any AI threats to health and safety and protect fundamental rights and values.
That means some AI uses are an absolute no-no, such as “social scoring” systems that judge people based on their behavior.
Also forbidden is AI that exploits vulnerable people, including children, or uses subliminal manipulation that can result in harm, for example, an interactive talking toy that encourages dangerous behavior.
Predictive policing tools, which crunch data to forecast who will commit crimes, is also out.
Lawmakers beefed up the original proposal from the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, by widening the ban on remote facial recognition and biometric identification in public. The technology scans passers-by and uses AI to match their faces or other physical traits to a database.