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EU Body Advances AI Legislation

FILE - The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston.
FILE - The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston.

BRUSSELS - Authorities around the world are racing to draw up rules for artificial intelligence, including in the European Union, where a European Parliament committee has voted to strengthen the legislation, part of a years-long effort by Brussels to draw up guardrails for artificial intelligence.

The AI Act, first proposed in 2021, will govern any product or service that uses an artificial intelligence system. The act will classify AI systems according to four levels of risk, from minimal to unacceptable. Riskier applications will face tougher requirements, including being more transparent and using accurate data.

Violations will draw fines of up to 30 million euros ($33 million) or 6% of a company's annual global revenue, which in the case of tech companies like Google and Microsoft could amount to billions.

One of the E.U.'s main goals is to guard against any AI threats to health and safety and protect fundamental rights and values.

That means some AI uses are an absolute no-no, such as “social scoring” systems that judge people based on their behavior or systems intended to manipulate like interactive talking toys that encourage dangerous behavior.

The original 108-page proposal barely mentioned chatbots, merely requiring them to be labeled so users know they’re interacting with a machine. Negotiators later added provisions to cover general purpose AI like ChatGPT, subjecting them to some of the same requirements as high-risk systems.

Negotiators beefed up the proposal by voting to ban predictive policing tools, which crunch data to forecast where crimes will happen and who will commit them. They also voted for a wide ban on remote facial recognition, save for a few law enforcement exceptions like preventing a specific terrorist threat. The technology scans passers-by and uses AI to match their faces to a database.

The aim is “to avoid a controlled society based on AI,” Brando Benifei, the Italian lawmaker helping lead the European Parliament's AI efforts, told reporters Wednesday. “We think that these technologies could be used instead of the good also for the bad, and we consider the risks to be too high.”

It could be years before the rules fully take effect. European Union lawmakers are now due to vote on the draft legislation at a plenary session in mid-June. Then it moves into three-way negotiations involving the bloc’s 27 member states, the Parliament and the Executive Commission, where it could face more changes as the sides wrangle over the details.

Final approval is expected by the end of the year, or early 2024 at the latest, followed by a grace period for companies and organizations to adapt, often around two years.