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Czech presidency hopes to shape AI Act, delist biometric categorization as high-risk

Would also narrow the definition of AI
Czech presidency hopes to shape AI Act, delist biometric categorization as high-risk

The European Union’s AI Act may be seeing some changes including a narrower definition of what AI is and a shorter list of what are classed as high-risk applications, according to a document seen by Euractiv. Biometric categorization has been removed from the high-risk list in the compromise.

The Czech Republic is the new host for the Presidency of the EU Council. While the host country cannot impose its policy position on European legislation, it can shape it through its leading of negotiations and broker compromises.

The AI Act has received a vast number of proposed amendments since the draft was published. For biometrics, experts argue that it could increase the compliance burden on developers even before the product stage, while others point out that it could also allow member states to establish frameworks for real-time remote facial recognition. Many are calling for a ban on this.

“We don’t even have a definition of artificial intelligence,” said Czech Deputy Prime Minister for Digitalization Ivan Bartoš recently.

Compromise on the definition and risk

While the basic concepts devised by the OECD have been kept in the document, reports Euractiv, the definition of AI in the new compromise has been tightened. It now states that AI is a system design with a “certain level of autonomy to achieve a given set of human-defined objectives using machine learning and/or logic or knowledge-based approaches.”

A definition of general-purpose AI has been added along with objectives.

AI applications could now only be considered high-risk if they are immediately effective without human review or if the software is not simply an accessory to a human decision. The list of high-risk applications has changed markedly with the removal of use cases dealing with environmental protection, pollution control, deepfake detection and biometric categorization (areas known to be significant to the Czech hosts).

National security and national enforcement

The national security exemption was clarified at the request of certain member states, according to the compromise seen by Euractiv, and now covers “activities concerning military, defence or national security, regardless of the type of entity carrying out those activities.”

Some member states are concerned that the governance of the AI Act is too decentralized and at that there might not be sufficient knowledge or capacity among national-level authorities.

To help national authorities, the Czech compromise proposes making changes to the European Artificial Intelligence Board which supports members. They propose modifying it to include only representatives of member states and create a permanent subgroup to act as a panel of stakeholders.

The compromise includes a new requirement for the Commission to designate at least one more EU-level testing facility to provide technical and scientific expertise to the board and member states. A further panel of independent experts could also advise at the state, cross-border and bloc levels.

Initial reaction on the compromise

The compromise document was the basis of a meeting of the Telecom Working Party last week, reported Euractiv, where there was only one vocal opponent: the Netherlands. The representative said the definition is now not concrete enough.

In the removal of areas from the high-risk list, France is calling for even stronger reductions for critical infrastructure. Exempted areas such as biometric categorization could be used as bargaining chips in negotiations with the European Parliament, the outlet noted after the meeting.

The states have until 2 September to lodge written comments, following which the Czech presidency will draft the next compromise.

Ivan Bartoš profile

CEPA has profiled Ivan Bartoš, the Czech Republic’s Deputy Prime Minister for Digitalization and Czech Pirate Party member. He studied computer science and theology and led the move for digitizing Czech government service provision.

He is reported as being personally keen on the European digital identity project, which he previously affirmed as a presidency priority. He also has dreadlocks worn in a ponytail.

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