The European Commission announced tough draft rules on Wednesday to regulate the use of artificial intelligence (AI), including heavy fines for infringements, a ban on surveillance with few exceptions and strict safeguards for high-risk uses related to AI.
AI rules could help the European Union take the lead in regulating a technology that critics say has detrimental social effects and can be used as a tool of social control by repressive governments. Its defenders see it as a factor of economic growth.
The move comes at a time when China is gaining ground in the AI race, while the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of algorithms and internet-connected devices in everyday life.
“When it comes to artificial intelligence, trust is a necessity, not a luxury. With these landmark rules, the EU is spearheading the development of new global rules to ensure AI can be trusted,” said the chief technology officer. European Union, Margrethe Vestager, in a statement.
The Commission has said that both AI-based activities that allow governments to do “social scoring” (which determines a person’s reputation or credibility based on factors including activity on social networks) and that can exploit children.
The use of high-risk AI applications in recruitment, critical infrastructure, credit scoring, migration, and law enforcement will be subject to strict safeguards.
Companies that break the rules will face fines of up to 6% of their global turnover or 30 million euros ($36 million), whichever is higher.
European Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton said the standards will help the 27-member European Union reap the benefits of technology across the board.
“This offers immense potential in areas as diverse as health, transportation, energy, agriculture, tourism or cybersecurity,” he said.
The Commission will have to work out the details with EU countries and the European Parliament before the rules can come into force, in a process that could take more than a year.