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Taking shots at the AI Act from the biometric sidelines

Taking shots at the AI Act from the biometric sidelines

A problem with trying to create a legislative super-regime like the EU’s AI Act is that every aspect of the law is so complex that anyone can mount a winning ideological attack on it.

The lawmaking is byzantine and fluid. Broad potential impacts on government functions, citizens and industry are really only understood by experts, who typically are not in government.

Few people outside the EU even know what the act’s finish line looks like or where it is.

So now, in the hoped-for waning days of the AI Act’s assembly, come critiques designed to destabilize it and its biometric provisions. Seemingly solid analysis is being flung to sway the dwindling number of politicians required for passage.

There is, for example, the little-known nonprofit Consumer Choice Center, a libertarian pressure group that has less to say for consumers and more to say for businesses selling to consumers.

Center officials say businesses will be too busy with compliance to innovate anymore. And no one outside the EU will follow the EU’s regulatory lead, leaving the union isolated and hamstrung as other players seek regulation that is more acceptable to industry.

Then there’s China, which the organization says ignore any market rules, even its own.

Even the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization not given to as much hyperbole, feels insufficient export controls of facial recognition and other facets of AI could be disastrous.

In an interview with the French news publisher RFI, an ACLU official criticized negotiators for dropping language that would make it illegal to sell overseas any algorithm that could not be sold in the union. Specifically named are facial and emotion recognition.

The official said European companies could find themselves facing a decision similar to Robert Oppenheimer, who directed the U.S.’ atomic bomb effort during the Second World War. Would it be better for the world to share the algorithms or for the EU to dominate?

These are difficult scenarios to contemplate and all the more so because the AI Act right now resembles an old-fashioned phone book.

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