Approval of the AI Act by European Parliament lawmakers, targeting high-risk AI systems, enhances transparency and sets standards for AI in regulated products. Its implementation, scheduled for May of 2024 is a major step in the governance of AI technologies.

Lawmakers in the European Parliament view the enactment as a momentous event, signaling a major progression in the oversight of AI technologies. The primary goal of this legislation is to set forth standards that govern the use of high-risk AI applications, focusing on both transparency and safety.

The AI Act outlines specific categories of high-risk AI systems, such as those used in critical infrastructure, education, or law enforcement, and establishes a framework for their regulation. These systems must meet strict requirements regarding transparency, data handling, and accountability to mitigate risks and protect individuals’ rights.

In addition to focusing on high-risk applications, the AI Act also addresses the broader implications of AI technologies on society and the economy. It aims to foster innovation while ensuring that AI developments align with fundamental values and rights, promoting an environment of trust in which AI can thrive.

Impact on the AI act on US companies

US enterprises find themselves in a position where they need to align with the EU AI Act and the legislation’s worldwide ramifications. Experts point out the necessity for these companies to adapt to the new regulations to maintain the advantages of AI while upholding ethical standards and responsible practices.

Non-compliance could result in substantial fines, legal challenges, and reputational damage, emphasizing the need for US companies to proactively adapt their AI strategies.

The AI Act’s global reach implies that US firms engaging in AI activities within the European Union must comply with its stipulations. These companies must understand the act’s requirements, particularly those concerning high-risk AI systems, to continue their operations in EU markets without disruptions. 

Expert opinions

Analysts from Forrester accentuate the EU’s efforts in establishing AI guidelines, predicting that these standards will likely become the benchmark for other regions. The EU’s decision to expedite the voting process on the AI Act reflects their acknowledgment of the swift pace at which AI technology is advancing and the pressing need for regulatory frameworks to keep up.

Experts argue that the EU AI Act could set a precedent, encouraging other regions to develop or refine their own AI regulations. The act’s emphasis on transparency, accountability, and protection of individual rights in AI applications may inspire similar values and principles in AI governance worldwide.

The anticipation is that the AI Act will influence the development and deployment of AI in Europe and spark a global movement towards more responsible and ethical AI practices. As countries and regions observe the EU’s approach to AI regulation, they might consider adopting similar frameworks, leading to a more unified global stance on AI governance.

Organizational preparedness

Successful compliance requires organizations to establish dedicated AI-compliance teams consisting of IT and data science professionals, and include legal, risk management, and other relevant departments. These collaborative efforts will help to build a more comprehensive understanding and implementation of the required standards, addressing various facets of AI use within the organization.

IBM’s statement

Christina Montgomery, IBM’s vice president and chief privacy and trust officer, praised the European Union for its forward-thinking approach to AI regulation. She highlighted the congruence between the AI Act’s risk-based methodology and IBM’s dedication to ethical AI practices. 

Montgomery highlighted IBM’s readiness to offer its technological solutions and expertise to facilitate compliance with the AI Act. She mentioned the watsonx.governance product specifically, illustrating IBM’s proactive stance in supporting clients and other stakeholders. 

Salesforce’s position on the Act

Eric Loeb, Salesforce’s executive vice president of global government affairs, shared his insights in a blog post, embracing the EU AI Act’s approach to crafting a risk-based framework for AI. 

Loeb articulated Salesforce’s belief in the power of such frameworks to drive ethical and trustworthy AI practices. He commended the EU’s leadership in this arena, highlighting the importance of multi-stakeholder collaboration in shaping the future of AI regulation. Salesforce’s applause for the EU’s initiative reflects its commitment to ethical AI and its readiness to engage with and contribute to the evolving regulatory landscape.

Tim Boesen

March 21, 2024

3 Min