This wasn’t the all-nighter Brussels was hoping for.
Negotiators hashing out the European Union’s draft Artificial Intelligence Act failed to overcome differences on prohibitions for risky AI practices such as facial recognition, suspending talks after 22 hours straight and agreeing to continue on Friday morning — after a good night’s sleep.
Officials started negotiations at 3 p.m. Wednesday, in what many hoped would be the conclusive round of talks on the pioneering AI rulebook.
But talks dragged through the night and Thursday morning, hitting a blockage over what types of AI should be outlawed under the rulebook and whether national security should be exempt from the Act’s scope, two people involved in the talks told POLITICO.
Negotiators for the European Parliament, Commission and EU countries represented by the Council worked through roughly half of the 22-point agenda and managed to strike a preliminary deal on AI “foundation models” underpinning advanced apps such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, three people said.
One person who was in the negotiating room stressed that all agreements would still be detailed in writing later.
EU governments are now pushing to allow for loopholes in the draft law’s language that would enable security authorities to use AI for racial profiling in some cases, documents obtained by POLITICO showed.
The European Parliament on the other hand is demanding more checks on AI’s use by public authorities and a full-on ban on facial recognition technology.
“The deal that’s being offered to the Parliament is no deal at all, it’s an invitation to surrender,” said Daniel Leufer, a policy lead from digital rights outfit Access Now.
Two people involved in the negotiation said that one major political group has been putting pressure on its lawmakers to align themselves with the governments’ position for the sake of clinching a deal.
Civil rights groups even suggested the prolonged negotiations were an attempt to get parties to agree to a subpar deal.
“Drawing out the trilogue is a tactic to force sleepy negotiators to accept a weaker deal,” said Sarah Chander, a senior policy advisor at European Digital Rights. “There’s a major concern that some in the Parliament will accept a disastrous deal when it comes to facial recognition and predictive policing.”
Scheduled press conferences about the legislation were postponed on Thursday morning. Parliamentary staff meanwhile posted pictures online of piles of sugary snacks wrappers and empty coffee cups.
The situation reached a stalemate by lunchtime on Thursday and talks were called off at 1:30 p.m. with plans to restart on Friday at 9 a.m.
This article has been updated.