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The European Union’s Artificial Intelligence Act – 5 Key Points

EDT&Partners
June 2023

Years ago, the European Commission began drafting the European AI Act, but in the wake of OpenAI’s AI-powered chatbot, ChatGPT, and its widespread adoption, the AI Act has become more relevant than ever.

What exactly is the European AI Act? We’ll help make sense of the Act and unravel the potential repercussions for the education sector with insights from Ana Calvo, EDT Consultant and Director for EMEA and LATAM.

Looking to stay ahead of innovation in AI at your Edtech company or institution?

Get in touch with Ana Calvo for expert advice and personalized solutions that meet your needs

Unveiling the Impact:
The European AI Act and Its Implications for the Future of Education

By Ana Calvo

AI in Education: Biometric Technology

–– ​There are many AI practices being discussed in this new law all of which have different applications and implications in education. One of those uses includes the use of biometric data. In the context of growing digital security threats and privacy concerns, biometric technology has emerged as a secure option that has seamlessly integrated into our daily lives. From the use of facial, voice, or fingerprint recognition on our mobile phones for banking transactions, to automated entry and exit from a country or baggage check-in, biometrics enhances security, access, and user experience, and optimizes time. Given these advantages, why can’t biometric technology be equally adopted in the field of education?

Nowadays, biometric technology has the potential to offer not only a secure and reliable way to verify the identity of students, but also to optimize the learning experience, enhance analytical capabilities to adapt teaching methods, streamline administrative tasks such as attendance tracking, and improve security. The limited adoption of biometric technology in the education sector is not due to the issue of adoption but rather the cost of incorporating this technology into education. Unfortunately, the education sector lacks the same financial resources as other sectors like the banking or national security sectors. Moreover, these sectors have less oversight of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance than the education sector.

In addition to differences among sectors, there are also notable geographical and socio-political differences that influence the adoption of biometric technology. Take for example the United States, often regarded as the land of the free, and China, known for its extensive control over its students. Both have implemented biometric technology in the education sector. Twenty years ago, the percentage of American educational institutions with security cameras barely reached 20%, but today over 80% utilize AI for automated surveillance. Different contexts also impact its use, for instance, during the pandemic, the installation of biometric systems was further accelerated by incorporating temperature checks. In China, they have been using cameras and algorithms in educational institutions for years to recognize emotions, measure concentration levels, and monitor behaviors and it is considered tremendously effective.

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI and creator of ChatGPT, has voiced numerous concerns regarding the potential restrictions, raising the possibility that ChatGPT could become unavailable in the EU if the law proves excessively restrictive. However, there are positive indications that suggest that efforts are being made to avoid such an outcome.

Where will European educational institutions and professionals stand in relation to the use of biometric technology in education? It all depends on what decision is taken in the European Parliament regarding the new AI law.

The Pros and Cons of AI in Education

–– We are well aware of the risks associated with the use of AI in terms of security, health, environment, democracy, and the rule of law. We also recognize the need for regulatory legislation to ensure appropriate use. However, we must not allow prohibition to stifle educational innovation or hinder task optimization or support for improving learning processes, as implied by this draft law.

In this evolving landscape, experts and professionals in education must pursue and advocate for the appropriate use of AI striking a balance that guarantees a high level of protection and transparency. This will allow us to manage risks while avoiding indiscriminate prohibitions that could set us back from the progress we have achieved in recent years.

The European AI Act:
5 Key Points You Should Know

1. Regulatory Oversight

The proposed legislation seeks to create a European Artificial Intelligence Board, which would oversee the enforecement of the law and ensure implementation throughout the EU.

2. Risk Classification

The AI Act incorporates a classification system that assesses the potential risks an AI technology may pose to individuals’ well-being, fundamental rights and safety. The framework includes four risk tiers: unacceptable, high, limited and minimal.

3. Regulating AI uses

In the law specific uses of AI rather than individual technologies will be regulated.

4. Restrictions

The approved amendments include the prohibition of:

–– Social scoring: classifying individuals based on their social behavior, socioeconomic status, and personal characteristics.
–– Biometric identification: in real-time o retrospective biometric identification with some exceptions for law enforcement purposes.
–– Unethical practices: systems that employ manipulative techniques, exploit vulnerabilities of individuals or are used for intrusive and discriminatory purposes.

5. Upcoming Vote

What comes next? Before negotiations with the Council on the final form of the law can begin, the entire Parliament must endorse this draft negotiating mandate, with the vote anticipated to take place during the session scheduled for 12-15 June.

While the European Parliament is in the midst of negotiations to establish the world’s first law on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) we find ourselves questioning the implications for education. Stay tuned for more EDT insights on the new AI Act. 

Looking to stay ahead of innovation in AI at your Edtech company or institution?

Get in touch with Ana Calvo for expert advice and personalized solutions that meet your needs

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EDT&Partners is your Cloud and Business of Education Partner. As a leading business education firm and AWS Public Sector Partner, we work with publishers, edtechs, universities, not-for-profits, networks and public entities to support and to accelerate innovation, strategy and impact.

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