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European negotiators reach deal on 'historic' bid to regulate AI

European negotiators announced Saturday they have reached agreement on one of the first legal efforts to regulate the quickly evolving field of artificial intelligence. Photo by Wu Hao/EPA-EFE
European negotiators announced Saturday they have reached agreement on one of the first legal efforts to regulate the quickly evolving field of artificial intelligence. Photo by Wu Hao/EPA-EFE

Dec. 9 (UPI) -- After three days of marathon negotiations, European Union leaders said Saturday they have reached an "historic" provisional deal to impose new regulations on artificial intelligence.

The Artificial Intelligence Act, announced by the European Council, sets out penalties for companies that use AI in ways that breach the EU's values.

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"The draft regulation aims to ensure that AI systems placed on the European market and used in the EU are safe and respect fundamental rights and EU values," the Council said.

The proposed law needs to secure approval from lawmakers in each from the EU's 27 member countries to take effect, likely sometime in 2026 or after.

The proposed regulations divide AI systems into categories such as "general purpose AI," "high-risk AI," and "limited risk."

AI technologies that fall into the high-risk category will be deemed unacceptable and therefore banned from the EU, the officials said.

Specific AI functions that model and study behavior and collect images of people without their knowledge will be strictly controlled, they warned.

"The provisional agreement bans, for example, cognitive behavioral manipulating, the untargeted scraping of facial images from the internet or CCTV footage, emotion recognition in the workplace and educational institutions," the EU officials said.

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The new AI act will not apply to systems which are used exclusively for military or defense purposes, to systems used for the sole purpose of research and innovation or for people using AI for non-professional reasons.

"This is a historical achievement, and a huge milestone towards the future! Today's agreement effectively addresses a global challenge in a fast-evolving technological environment on a key area for the future of our societies and economies," said Spanish Secretary of State for Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence Carme Artigas.

The regulations target AI systems that accumulate large databases of images without the parties' consent and come with financial penalties set as a percentage of the offending company's global annual turnover in the previous financial year, or a predetermined amount, whichever is higher, the act states.

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