Low, High, and Unacceptable: Risk Classifications in the EU AI Act Explained


The EU AI Act categorizes AI systems according to the risk they pose to rights and safety. This classification determines the regulatory requirements each system must meet, aiming to balance innovation with protection against potential harms.

The Act's risk-based approach reflects a pragmatic recognition that not all AI applications pose the same level of risk, requiring tailored regulatory responses to ensure both innovation and public trust.

Low-Risk AI Systems

Low-risk AI systems are those deemed to pose minimal threats to rights or safety. Examples include AI-enabled video games or spam filters. Such systems are subject to minimal regulatory requirements, primarily around transparency. Developers must ensure users are aware when they are interacting with an AI system, but otherwise, these applications can be brought to market with relative ease. This classification encourages innovation by reducing regulatory burdens for low-risk applications, facilitating a dynamic and competitive AI ecosystem in the EU.

High-Risk AI Systems

High-risk AI systems are subject to stringent regulatory scrutiny, reflecting their potential to significantly impact individuals' rights or safety. This category includes AI used in critical infrastructure, employment selection processes, essential private and public services, law enforcement, and more. High-risk systems must meet strict compliance requirements before and after deployment, including rigorous testing, documentation, human oversight, and transparency to ensure their decisions are fair, accurate, and traceable.

The Act's comprehensive approach to high-risk AI aims to foster trust and safety, ensuring that these systems contribute positively to society without compromising fundamental rights or public welfare.

Unacceptable Risk AI Systems

Certain AI practices are classified as posing an unacceptable risk and are thus prohibited under the EU AI Act. These include AI systems that deploy subliminal techniques to exploit vulnerable individuals, government 'social scoring' systems, and real-time biometric identification systems in public spaces. This classification underscores the EU's commitment to safeguarding fundamental rights and freedoms against the most invasive or potentially harmful AI technologies. The prohibition of these systems sends a clear message: innovation cannot come at the expense of human dignity and rights.

Navigating Compliance: Challenges and Opportunities

Complying with the EU AI Act's risk classifications poses challenges, especially for organizations that must accurately assess their AI systems' risk levels. However, this regulatory landscape also presents opportunities. By fostering a safer, more transparent AI ecosystem, the Act encourages the development of ethical AI solutions that consumers can trust. Organizations can leverage compliance as a competitive advantage, demonstrating their commitment to ethical standards and user safety.

To make compliance with the EU AI Act easier, Konfer has launched a series of “cheat sheets” in the form of its EU AI Act Control Questions Catalog — an industry-first tool created by first analyzing the EU AI Act, and then abstracting the mandates that apply to governed entities into control questions.

These EU AI Act Control Questions Catalog are available individually or as a downloadable package on the Konfer Store.

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