European Parliament votes to pass AI Act

14/06/2023 | European Parliament

The European Union has taken a significant step towards regulating artificial intelligence (AI) by agreeing upon a negotiating position on the proposed EU Artificial Intelligence Act. The European Parliament settled on a final text with 499 votes in favour, 28 against and 93 abstentions. 

In a press conference, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola stated that this set of regulations is consistent with the EU's values and desire to be world leaders in digital innovation. The AI Act takes a risk-based, tiered approach to regulate AI and includes outright bans on certain high-risk AI applications that are intrusive or discriminatory. 

The prohibited practices include the use of: 

  • Real-time biometric identification systems in public spaces,
  • Biometric categorisation systems that use sensitive attributes, such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion and political affiliation,
  • Predictive policing technology that uses profiling and geolocation,
  • Emotion recognition systems in the workplace, schools and law enforcement,
  • Untargeted data scraping of images from the Internet or CCTV for facial recognition databases.

Commenting on the prohibited practices, EDRi welcomed the news but outlined its disappointment over the missed opportunity to increase protections to empower people affected by the use of AI, such as the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

Speaking to the BBC, European Commission, Executive Vice-President for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age and Competition, Margrethe Vestager warned discrimination is a more pressing AI concern than human extinction. Using home loan applications as an example, Vestager said, "If it's a bank using it to decide whether I can get a mortgage or not... then you want to make sure that you're not being discriminated [against] because of your gender or your colour or your postal code."

The trilogue process between the European Parliament, the European Council of Ministers and the European Commission will commence on Wednesday evening. According to EURACTIV, concluding the AI Act negotiations this year is the top priority for Spain when it takes over the rotating presidency of the Council in July.

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