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Business News/ Ai / Artificial Intelligence/  EU achieves historic AI regulations agreement in landmark talks – world's first of its kind
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EU achieves historic AI regulations agreement in landmark talks – world's first of its kind

Negotiators from the European Parliament and the bloc's 27 member countries overcame big differences on controversial points including generative AI and police use of facial recognition surveillance to sign a tentative political agreement for the Artificial Intelligence Act.

The result came after marathon closed-door talks this week, with the initial session lasting 22 hours before a second round kicked off Friday morning. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)Premium
The result came after marathon closed-door talks this week, with the initial session lasting 22 hours before a second round kicked off Friday morning. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)

European Union negotiators achieved a breakthrough agreement on December 8 concerning the world's first comprehensive regulations for artificial intelligence (AI). The deal sets the stage for the legal supervision of technology utilised in popular generative AI services such as ChatGPT, which pledge to revolutionise everyday life but have sparked concerns about potential threats to humanity.

Negotiators representing the European Parliament and the EU's 27 member nations surmounted significant disparities on contentious issues, including generative AI and the deployment of facial recognition surveillance by law enforcement, to agree. This led to the signing of a preliminary political accord known as the Artificial Intelligence Act.

European Commissioner Thierry Breton hailed the development with a tweet just before midnight, declaring the EU as the first continent to establish explicit guidelines for AI usage. He said: “Deal! The EU becomes the very first continent to set clear rules for the use of AI."

Exhaustive Talks Yield Success

The result materialised following exhaustive closed-door discussions spanning this week, starting with a marathon 22-hour session and continuing into Friday morning for a second round of negotiations.

While officials raced to secure a pivotal victory for the flagship legislation, there remains an expectation of subsequent discussions to fine-tune specifics, potentially involving further behind-the-scenes advocacy efforts.

Notably, despite this milestone, the European Parliament must conduct a vote early next year, although, with the deal sealed, this is considered a formality, as indicated by Brando Benifei, an Italian lawmaker leading the negotiations.

The law's complete implementation is not expected before 2025, with provisions for substantial financial penalties for violations, reaching up to €35 million ($38 million) or 7 percent of a company's global turnover.

Impact of Generative AI Systems

Generative AI platforms such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT have garnered immense attention for their capacity to generate text, images, and music akin to human creation. However, concerns persist regarding potential ramifications on employment, privacy, copyright protection, and even human safety due to the rapid evolution of this technology.

Other countries such as China, the United Kingdom, the United States, and major G7 democracies are also formulating their own AI regulations, albeit trailing behind the EU.

Anu Bradford, a Columbia Law School professor specializing in EU and digital regulation told AP that robust EU regulations could serve as a benchmark for governments worldwide, foreseeing the emulation of many aspects of the guidelines.

Concerns, Provisions, and Risks

While the agreement is hailed as a significant step forward, concerns persist about rushed decision-making and the necessity for further technical refinements in crucial aspects of the AI Act.

Daniel Friedlaender, head of the European office of a tech industry lobby group, stressed the need for continued work on crucial details, highlighting the expansion of regulations to encompass foundation models that underpin advanced AI systems.

The agreement specifies extra scrutiny for the most advanced foundation models deemed to pose significant "systemic risks." This includes mandates for greater transparency, such as disclosing the computational power utilised in training these systems.

Critics and researchers have warned about the potential misuse of these powerful models for online disinformation, cyberattacks, or even the development of bioweapons, underscoring the importance of vigilance and oversight.

Negotiators also navigated intense discussions around AI-powered facial recognition systems, ultimately finding a compromise between the ban sought by European lawmakers and exemptions desired by member country governments for law enforcement purposes in cases of serious crimes.

However, concerns from civil society groups persist, highlighting flaws in the final text, including inadequate protection for AI systems used in migration and border control, and perceived loopholes in the bans on the most hazardous AI systems.

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This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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Published: 09 Dec 2023, 07:42 AM IST
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