EU AI laws: Europe sets global standard with AI regulations enforcing next month

New AI Act in EU imposes stringent transparency requirements on high-risk AI systems
An undated image showing AI. — Freepik
An undated image showing AI. — Freepik

Europe's landmark rules on artificial intelligence will come into effect next month following the endorsement of a political agreement by EU countries on Tuesday, which was reached in December. This sets a potential global benchmark for a technology integral to business and daily life. 

The European Union's AI Act is more comprehensive compared to the United States' light-touch, voluntary compliance approach, while China's strategy aims to maintain social stability and state control. 

The vote by EU countries occurred two months after EU lawmakers supported the AI legislation drafted by the European Commission in 2021, following several key amendments. 

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Concerns about AI contributing to misinformation, fake news, and copyright infringement have heightened globally in recent months, spurred by the rising popularity of generative AI systems like Microsoft-backed OpenAI's ChatGPT, and Google's chatbot Gemini. 

"This landmark law, the first of its kind in the world, addresses a global technological challenge that also creates opportunities for our societies and economies," Belgian digitisation minister Mathieu Michel said in a statement. 

"With the AI Act, Europe emphasises the importance of trust, transparency, and accountability when dealing with new technologies while at the same time ensuring this fast-changing technology can flourish and boost European innovation," he said. 

The AI Act imposes stringent transparency requirements on high-risk AI systems, while such obligations for general-purpose AI models will be less stringent. 

It limits governments' use of real-time biometric surveillance in public spaces to specific instances involving certain crimes, prevention of terrorist attacks, and searches for individuals suspected of the most serious offences. 

The new legislation will have implications beyond the 27-country bloc, said Patrick van Eecke at law firm Cooley.