Negotiators in the European Union managed to reach a deal on Friday that marks the world's first regulation governing the use of Artificial Intelligence, including governments' use of AI in biometric surveillance and regulation of AI systems like ChatGPT that have spurred warnings of dangers to humanity.
With the deal struck, the EU is on road to becoming the world's first major power regulating the use of AI, following 15 hours of intense negotiations that came after an almost 24-hour debate on the previous day between the 27 members of the bloc and negotiators in the European Parliament.
"Deal! The EU becomes the very first continent to set clear rules for the use of AI," tweeted European Commissioner Thierry Breton, just before midnight (local time). The two sides are set to hash out details in the coming days, which could change the shape of the final legislation.
What does the deal say?
As per the deal, AI platforms like ChatGPT and GPAI would be compelled to comply with transparency obligations before they are put on the market by certain steps including technical documentation, compliance with EU copyright law and disseminating detailed summaires about the content. High-impact foundational models with systemic risk will have to conduct model evaluations, assess and mitigate systemic risks, conduct advsersarial training report to the European Commission on serious incidents and ensure cybersecurity.
Additionally, European governments can only use real-time biometric surveillance in public in certain cases, like in cases of victims of certain crimes, prevention of genuine, present, or foreseeable threats, such as terrorist attacks, and searches for people suspected of the most serious crimes.
The agreement has also banned cognitive behavioural manipulation, the untargeted scrapping of facial images from the internet or CCTV footage, social scoring and biometric categorisation systems to infer political, religious, philosophical beliefs, sexual orientation and race.
Consumers would have the right to launch complaints and receive meaningful explanations while fines for violations would range from 7.5 million euros ($8.1 million) or 1.5% of turnover to 35 million euros or 7% of global turnover.
Overcoming enormous differences
Negotiators from the European Parliament and the bloc overcame big differences on controversial themes including generative AI and police use of facial recognition surveillance to sign the tentative, yet landmark political agreement. With this, the EU has taken an early lead in regulating AI, which has been a common point of concern for many countries, including India with the ongoing deepfake row.
The European Parliament will still need to vote on it early next year, but with the deal done that's a formality, Brando Benifei, an Italian lawmaker co-leading the body's negotiating efforts, told the Associated Press. "Obviously we had to accept some compromises but overall very good," he added.
Generative AI systems like ChatGPT have gained an explosive popularity with the ability to produce human-like text, photos and songs but raising fears about the risks the rapidly developing technology poses to jobs, privacy and copyright protection and even human life itself.
Apart from the EU, the US, UK, China and global coalitions like the G7 countries have jumped in with their own proposals to regulate AI, though they're still catching up to Europe. The use of AI-powered facial recognition surveillance systems has remained one of the most heated topics of debate among the European bloc.
Reactions to the deal
Business group DigitalEurope criticised the rules as yet another burden for companies, on top of other recent legislation. "We have a deal, but at what cost? We fully supported a risk-based approach based on the uses of AI, not the technology itself, but the last-minute attempt to regulate foundation models has turned this on its head," said Director General Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl.
Anu Bradford, a Columbia Law School professor who's an expert on EU and digital regulation, said that the regulation can set a powerful example for many governments considering regulation and other countries will emulate several aspects of the agreement
However, some analysts were worried that the deal was rushed through under intense pressure. "Today's political deal marks the beginning of important and necessary technical work on crucial details of the AI Act, which are still missing," said Daniel Friedlaender, head of the European office of the Computer and Communications Industry Associatio
(with inputs from agencies)