The European Union’s (EU) AI Act has been a subject of significant interest and debate among policymakers, businesses, and citizens in the past couple of years.
The proposed legislation aims to establish a regulatory framework for AI technologies that addresses concerns and ensures ethical and responsible deployment of AI systems.
However, talks on the AI Act stalled on Thursday, December 7, after 22 straight hours. Officials had not yet reached an agreement for the rapidly advancing technology such as ChatGPT.
European Commissioner Thierry Breton tweeted “Lots of progress made over past 22 hours on the #AIAct. Resuming work with EU Parliament and Council tomorrow at 9:00 AM. Stay tuned!”
Biometric Surveillance: A main point of EU AI Act discussion
One of the major concerns surrounding the EU’s AI Act relates to the regulation of biometric surveillance, reports Reuter.
In general, biometric surveillance refers to the use of AI systems to analyse and identify individuals based on their unique physical or behavioural characteristics, such as fingerprints, facial features, or gait.
Critics argue that the widespread use of biometric surveillance poses significant threats to privacy, civil liberties, and democratic values.
As a result, EU lawmakers want to ban the use of AI in this area because of privacy concerns, but governments have pushed for an exception for national security, defence, and military purposes.
The representatives, lawmakers, and executive commissioners of the European Union’s 27 member states are currently under pressure to reach a political agreement for the AI Act, which is the flagship legislation.
EU aims to strike a balance between enabling innovation and protecting individuals’ rights to privacy and data protection.
However, finding the right balance has proven challenging, with debates centering on issues such as the use of personal data for training AI systems and much more.
However, negotiations have resumed, and efforts are being made to address the concerns raised, including those related to biometric surveillance.
European Commissioner Thierry Breton tweeted, “Batteries: recharged. Ready to dive back into the #AIAct trilogue! We made major progress yesterday and the day before — let’s join forces for the last mile.”
Proposing a regulatory framework for AI
In April 2021, the European Commission proposed the first regulatory framework for AI in the EU. The aim is to turn the EU into a global hub for trustworthy AI.
They categorised AI systems into four levels: unacceptable risk, high risk, limited risk, and minimal risk.
On June 14, 2023, MEPs adopted Parliament’s negotiating position on the AI Act. The aim is to reach an agreement by the end of this year.
The European Parliament‘s priority is to ensure that AI systems used in the EU are safe, transparent, traceable, non-discriminatory, and environmentally friendly.