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The EU AI Act Explained

Updated: May 23

Elle Farrell-Kingsley

roberta metsola in front of eu and swedish flags

In this article, Elle Farrell-Kingsley breaks down what the EU's AI Act involves and how it will impact you


The EU AI Act is a legislation by the European Union (EU) to regulate artificial intelligence

(AI) within its member states. On the 14th June, 2023, the European Parliament approved the

draft legislation of the EU AI Act with a final vote of 499 in favour and 28 against, with 93

abstentions.

 

It is the first comprehensive law on AI proposed by a central regulator anywhere in the world.

As such, the Act categorises AI applications into three risk categories and establishes specific

legal requirements for high-risk applications. It also bans certain applications that pose

widely-considered unacceptable risks, such as government-run social scoring systems and

police use of live facial recognition technology in public places.

 

The EU AI Act holds significant implications for various stakeholders, including young

people and other countries. AI applications have the capacity profoundly influence various

aspects of people's lives, from personalised online content to healthcare and employment. By

regulating AI, the EU aims to ensure that these applications positively impact and safeguard

individuals'; rights and wellbeing.

 

“This legislation that will no doubt be setting the global standard for years to come,” said

Roberta Metsola, The European Parliament President. Indeed, the EU AI Act has the

potential to become a global standard for AI regulation, similar to the EU's General Data

Protection Regulation (GDPR). As the EU is a prominent regulatory authority, its AI

regulations may influence other countries'; AI governance approaches. For instance, in late

2021, Brazil's Congress passed a bill creating a legal framework for AI, potentially inspired

by the EU's AI regulation. This indicates that the EU's regulatory approach has the potential

to shape AI policies in countries beyond the EU and the US.


The Act focuses on mitigating potential harms associated with high-risk AI applications. By

imposing specific legal requirements, it aims to enhance consumer protection, data privacy,

and reduce discriminatory practices. With clear guidelines and requirements for AI systems

to promote trustworthy and ethical AI applications, its aims are to safeguard individuals';

rights, privacy, and well-being, ensuring responsible AI use.


The EU AI Act will directly impact individuals by providing increased protection and

ensuring responsible AI use. It addresses concerns related to biased AI algorithms, data

privacy, and discrimination. By promoting transparency and accountability, the Act

empowers individuals to have more control over their personal data, make informed

decisions, and trust that their rights are respected. The Act seeks to enhance consumer trust,

improve data privacy, and create a safer AI environment for everyday people.


While the EU AI Act introduces compliance obligations and regulatory burdens for

businesses, it also provides a framework for responsible AI development. By adhering to the

Act's principles, businesses can build consumer trust, gain a competitive advantage, and

mitigate risks associated with AI technologies. Compliance with the Act's requirements can

protect businesses from reputational damage and facilitate international collaboration.


The EU AI Act's limitations and exceptions have raised important ethical questions that must

be addressed. Concerns include privacy and surveillance related to police facial recognition,

such as capturing images with a delay or searching for missing children, causing concern

about privacy and surveillance. Striking a balance between security and individual privacy

rights is crucial to prevent the normalisation of intrusive surveillance practices. On this basis,

concerns ensuring that AI systems do not perpetuate discrimination and bias are also vital.


Accountability and transparency mechanisms should hold AI developers and users

responsible for the impact of their systems. Future-proofing the Act is another ethical

consideration, as it must be able to adapt to rapidly evolving AI technologies and emerging

risks. Flexibility is key in regulating new and potentially dangerous AI applications without

stifling innovation.


While the UK is not directly included in the EU AI Act due to its exit from the EU, the UK

government is committed to developing its own AI regulations. Collaboration and

interactions between the UK and the EU in shaping AI regulations are likely, as both

recognise the need to address ethical and legal challenges associated with AI.


Overall, the EU AI Act establishes a regulatory framework to promote trust and

accountability in AI technologies. It provides legal certainty for businesses and serves as a

benchmark for other countries and regions developing their own AI regulations. 

As AI continues to evolve and shape various aspects of society, the EU AI Act's impact may

extend far beyond the EU borders, inspiring other countries to develop their own AI

regulations and contributing to establishing a global AI framework that prioritises the well-

being and rights of individuals.


Image: European Parliament


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