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  • Writer's pictureNassia Skoulikariti

The Impact of the EU AI Act on Consumer Rights and Data Privacy

Updated: Mar 28



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European Union lawmakers have officially approved the EU AI Act. The AI Act aims to regulate the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology within the EU and establish certain regulations and transparency requirements for AI providers.


Since its proposal in 2021, the AI Act has undergone extensive debate and compromise. While some of its stricter regulations have been softened, such as a proposed ban on biometric systems for mass surveillance, the law still contains significant provisions to address concerns related to social scoring, emotion recognition, and systems that can influence behaviour or exploit user vulnerabilities.


EU AI Act Implications


The implementation of the AI Act will occur in stages. After final approval and publication in the Official Journal, countries will have different timeframes to enforce the rules depending on the type of AI system. Prohibited AI systems will need to be banned within six months, rules against general-purpose AI systems like chatbots will be enforced within 12 months, and AI systems designated as "high risk" will have a timeframe of up to 36 months for compliance.


The AI Act may have implications for AI designers based in the US, but its immediate effects are not expected until 2025. Major AI players like OpenAI, Microsoft, Google, and Meta will likely continue to compete for dominance while navigating regulatory uncertainties in the US.


AI Act's Rules


The AI Act's rules address the level of risk an AI system poses to society. Some member states, including France, Germany, and Italy, have expressed concerns about the strictness of the regulations and have lobbied for more lenient restrictions on certain types of AI systems. However, critics argue that the act creates a tough regulatory environment that hampers innovation and may disadvantage European AI companies compared to their American counterparts.


The AI Act does not introduce new laws around data collection but requires companies to follow existing data protection guidelines outlined in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It also does not apply stiff fines to open-source developers, researchers, and smaller companies working further down the value chain.


The EU's approach to AI regulation may influence US policymakers and encourage them to consider similar measures. While the US has not established comprehensive AI regulations, the EU's transparent and heavily debated development process provides insights and lessons for other countries.


What does this mean for you and me?


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For everyday AI users, the EU AI Act will have several implications. Here are some key points:


  • Increased Transparency: The AI Act emphasizes transparency from AI providers. This means that users may have more visibility into how AI systems make decisions, their data, and potential biases or risks associated with their use. AI providers may be required to give users transparency summaries or data nutrition labels.


  • Limited Use of Certain AI Systems: The AI Act prohibits, or places restrictions on certain AI systems considered high-risk or potentially infringing on privacy and individual rights. This includes systems like social scoring, emotion recognition at work or schools, and systems designed to influence behaviour or exploit vulnerabilities. For everyday AI users, this means that they may have more protection against the use of AI technologies that have the potential to impact their privacy or manipulate their behaviour negatively.


  • Safeguards Against Discrimination and Bias: The AI Act addresses concerns regarding discrimination and bias in AI systems. Users can expect AI providers to be held accountable for ensuring their systems do not perpetuate unfair biases or discriminate against individuals based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, or religion. This can lead to more equitable and fairer AI technologies for everyday users.


  • Long-Term Impact on AI Development: The AI Act's regulations and requirements may influence the design and development of AI systems. AI providers may need to invest more resources in ensuring compliance with the regulations, which could impact the availability and functionality of AI applications and services. However, it is important to note that the immediate effects of the AI Act on everyday AI users may take some time to materialize, as the Act's provisions will be implemented gradually.


The EU AI Act intends to balance promoting innovation and protecting individuals' rights and interests. It aims to create a more transparent and accountable AI landscape, which can benefit everyday AI users by providing more control, fairness, and protection in their interactions with AI technologies.


 

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