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AI Act agreement held up by biometrics restrictions as debate deadline nears

AI Act agreement held up by biometrics restrictions as debate deadline nears

The sausage-making behind the EU’s proposed AI Act is nearing its end and yet the legislation appears to have reached a point of ultimate precariousness.

In fact, according to one report, any single policy – including the use of remote public systems for biometrics identificationcould threaten the proposed risk-based AI Act’s survival.

In that specific case, according to trade publication TechCrunch, EU members have rejected language imposing an outright ban on using biometric ID systems in public.

But it is emblematic of regulatory philosophies that act proponents and even some opponents thought would be settled by now. The goal since it was introduced in spring 2021 has been to build a consensus for the AI Act before the European Parliament is dissolved for elections in June.

That means substantive debate and compromise needs to be settled this month, according to news outlet Euractiv (which is funded by the European Union).

A public biometrics ban is being supported by some lawmakers and civil society organizations who feel strongly about maximizing citizens’ rights, including privacy.

But opponents, including law enforcement agencies, more-authoritarian legislators and biometrics vendors, recoil at what they see as harmful government over-regulation.

And the list of tactical but important provisions at issue is still longer than one might expect at this date.

TechCrunch reports that issues needing resolution include registration of high-risk AI algorithms used by police and immigration officers and biometric categorization and emotion recognition.

Add to that list foundation models, according to Euractiv. There is no consensus on regulating ChatGPT.

An earlier position was to have ratcheting rules based on how powerful a chatbot, for example, is. Doing this would restrict the global industry leaders, none of whom stand on EU soil. But the regulations could act as a ceiling for EU startups with potential.

In fact, over-regulation could wipe out some growing companies in the bloc, opponents told the publication.

It might be time to break out AI baristas because this final push for an AI Act is going to need some extra fuel.

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