EU Parliament Overwhelmingly Passes Landmark AI Law

(March 13, 2024, 6:18 PM GMT) -- European Union lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday in favor of a first-of-its-kind artificial intelligence law, in a bid to help facilitate innovation while safeguarding the bloc's fundamental rights.

MEPs voted 523 for the Artificial Intelligence Act, with 46 against and 49 abstentions during a plenary session Wednesday.

The adopted law outlines a number of safeguards and limitations for the use of AI that limit the use of the technology by law enforcement, the workplace and schools, as well as laying down requirements and obligations for developers of such systems.

The act will now be subject to a lawyer-linguist check before being formally endorsed by the European Council.

"We finally have the world's first binding law on artificial intelligence, to reduce risks, create opportunities, combat discrimination, and bring transparency," Brando Benifei, an Italian MEP, said. "Thanks to Parliament, unacceptable AI practices will be banned in Europe and the rights of workers and citizens will be protected."

The 459-page document outlines several instances where the use of AI will be prohibited, including the untargeted scraping of facial images from CCTV footage to create facial recognition databases.

The law also bans the use of certain AI applications that pose a threat to the rights of citizen, including biometric categorization based on "sensitive characteristics," according to the bloc.

Using AI systems for "emotion recognition" capabilities in the workplace and schools, social scoring or predictive policing for profiling purposes are also forbidden by the act.

The law also prohibits the real-time use of biometric identification by law enforcement.

It also states that high-risk AI systems, such as those used in education, critical infrastructure and employment scenarios, must actively reduce risks, maintain use logs and be transparent and accurate with human oversight.

General-purpose AI systems must also meet specific transparency requirements under the new law. These include compliance with EU copyright law and an obligation to publish detailed summaries of the content used for training.

Any artificial or manipulated images, audio or video content, such as "deepfakes" must clearly be labeled as such, according to the act.

"The EU has delivered. We have linked the concept of artificial intelligence to the fundamental values that form the basis of our societies," Dragos Tudorache, a Romanian MEP and civil liberties committee co-rapporteur said. "However, much work lies ahead that goes beyond the AI act itself. AI will push us to rethink the social contract at the heart of our democracies, our education models, labor markets, and the way we conduct warfare."

--Editing by Joe Millis.

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