Unveiling the EU AI Act: Comprehensive guide to ethical AI regulation

Jun 27th '24

In an era where Artificial Intelligence (AI) permeates various aspects of our lives, from healthcare to law enforcement, the need for robust regulation has become paramount. The European Union (EU) has stepped up to the challenge with the introduction of the EU AI Act, marking a significant milestone in the ethical governance of AI technologies.


Understanding the EU AI Act

The EU AI Act, proposed by the European commission in April 2021 and subsequently ratified by the EU parliament on June 14, 2023, signifies a proactive approach towards regulating AI systems. Its primary objective is to establish a comprehensive legal framework that promotes ethical and responsible AI development and usage.


Addressing concerns and motivations

The driving force behind the EU AI Act is the recognition of the potential risks associated with AI technologies. From privacy infringement to algorithmic bias, the EU is committed to safeguarding individuals’ rights and promoting transparency, accountability, and human oversight in AI deployment.


Risk-based approach

At the core of the EU AI Act lies a risk-based approach, where the severity of regulations is determined by the level of risk posed by AI systems. This approach categorises AI systems into four main groups:


Unacceptable risk

AI systems deemed to pose a clear threat to safety, livelihoods, and rights fall under this category. Examples include systems employing subliminal techniques or enabling social scoring by governments.


High risk

AI systems utilised in critical sectors such as healthcare and law enforcement are subjected to stringent requirements, including thorough testing, risk management, and adherence to transparency standards.


Limited risk

AI systems with moderate risk levels must comply with transparency obligations, ensuring users are informed when interacting with such systems.


Minimal risk

AI systems with minimal risk, such as those employed in video games, are subject to general EU laws without additional regulatory burdens.


Prohibited and regulated AI systems

The EU AI Act prohibits the use of certain AI technologies deemed too risky or ethically unsound. These include:


  • Emotion-recognition AI: the Act bans the use of AI for identifying emotions in policing, educational institutions, and workplaces.
  • Real-time biometrics and predictive policing: facial recognition and predictive policing tools cannot be utilised for individual tracking or behavioural prediction in public spaces.
  • Social scoring: the practice of social scoring, which involves profiling individuals based on their social behaviour, is strictly prohibited.


New restrictions and compliance requirements

In addition to bans on specific AI systems, the EU AI Act imposes new rules and restrictions on other AI applications to ensure ethical and transparent operation:


  • Generative AI: new rules require that generative AI, including large language models, refrAIn from using copyrighted material during training.
  • Recommendation algorithms: stricter regulations are enforced for recommendation algorithms used on social media platforms, categorising them as “high risk” and subjecting them to closer scrutiny.


Regulations for general-purpose AI models

The EU AI Act also addresses general-purpose AI systems, such as large language models, by imposing specific requirements to promote responsible usage:


  • Transparency and disclosure: developers must provide clear information about the capabilities and limitations of general-purpose AI models, ensuring users are aware of their interActions with such systems.
  • Risk management: comprehensive risk management protocols must be established to identify and mitigate potential harms associated with general-purpose AI models.
  • Ethical use of data: training data for general-purpose AI models must be ethically sourced and compliant with data protection laws, aiming to prevent biases and preserve user privacy.


Enforcement and penalties

Compliance with the EU AI Act is crucial, as failure to adhere to its regulations may result in significant fines ranging from €7.5 million to €35 million or a percentage of the company’s global turnover. These penalties underscore the importance of ethical AI development and usage within the EU.


Aligning with the EU AI Act: ISO/IEC 42001

Businesses seeking to comply with the EU AI Act can benefit from implementing an artificial intelligence management system (AIMS) based on the ISO/IEC 42001 standard. This framework provides guidance on establishing responsible AI practices aligned with the Act’s requirements, including risk management, transparency, and accountability.



The EU AI Act represents a groundbreaking initiative towards ensuring the ethical and responsible development of AI technologies within the European Union. By prioritising transparency, accountability, and human oversight, the Act aims to foster innovation while safeguarding individuals’ rights and promoting societal well-being. As AI continues to evolve, Europe’s regulatory framework serves as a beacon of ethical governance, setting a precedent for global AI regulation.


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