EU poised to impose rules, fines governing AI usage

BRUSSELS • The European Union is poised to ban artificial intelligence (AI) systems used for mass surveillance or for ranking social behaviour, while companies developing AI could face fines as high as 4 per cent of global revenue if they fail to comply with new rules governing the software applications.

The rules are part of legislation set to be proposed by the European Commission, the bloc's executive body, according to a draft of the proposal obtained by Bloomberg.

The EU proposal is expected to include a ban on AI systems used to manipulate human behaviour, exploit information about individuals or groups of individuals, carry out social scoring or for indiscriminate surveillance. However, some public security exceptions would apply.

Remote biometric identification systems used in public places, like facial recognition, would need special authorisation from the authorities, and AI applications considered to be "high risk" would have to undergo inspections before deployment to ensure systems are trained on unbiased data sets, in a traceable way and with human oversight.

These high-risk AI applications would pertain to systems that could endanger people's safety, lives or fundamental rights, as well as the EU's democratic processes - such as self-driving cars and remote surgery, among others.

Some companies will be allowed to undertake assessments themselves, whereas others will be subject to checks by third parties. Compliance certificates issued by assessment bodies will be valid for up to five years. The rules would apply equally to companies based in the EU or abroad.

European member states would be required to appoint assessment bodies to test, certify and inspect the systems, according to the document. Companies that develop prohibited AI services, or supply incorrect information or fail to cooperate with the national authorities could be fined up to 4 per cent of global revenue. The rules will not apply to systems used exclusively for military purposes.

The proposed rules come as the EU tries to catch up with the United States and China on the roll-out of AI and other advanced technology. The new requirements could hinder tech firms in the region from competing with foreign rivals if they are delayed in unveiling products because they first have to be tested. Once proposed by the commission, the rules could still change following input from the European Parliament and the bloc's member states before becoming law.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2021, with the headline EU poised to impose rules, fines governing AI usage. Subscribe