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As automated systems, especially those powered by artificial intelligence (AI), become more commonplace in our daily lives, four federal agencies pledged Tuesday to uphold America’s commitment to core principles of fairness, equality and justice.
In a joint statement released today, the Federal Trade Commission, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission made a commitment to enforce their respective laws and regulations to promote responsible innovation in automated systems .
The agencies said they would work together to ensure automated systems are designed, developed and deployed in a way that respects civil rights, fair competition, consumer protection and equal opportunity. They also said they would work with stakeholders including industry, academia, civil society and the public to raise awareness and understanding of the benefits and challenges of automated systems.
Mixed reception from the AI and legal community
The statement received mixed reviews from legal experts and members of the AI community. The US approach to AI risk has previously been criticized for being too fragmented, spread across federal agencies without any unifying principles, especially when compared to the EU. This fragmentation has raised questions about potential challenges in international coordination and cooperation in the development and regulation of AI.
“I am very disappointed,” he said Brad Newman, a partner at Baker and McKenzie LLP who specializes in AI matters, in an interview with VentureBeat. “It’s a citizen of nothing. It offers no new guidance, no new advice or insight.
“I also think it’s anti-innovation,” he added, “because it doesn’t really explain what the practice is that’s legal — and what’s illegal versus AI. It’s just saying that discrimination and bias are bad , but there are no specifics, nothing to act on. It feels political.”
Jesse Lehrich, former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign foreign policy spokesperson and co-founder of Responsible technology, a non-profit organization that aims to “restrain Big Tech,” praised the joint statement. In a tweethe said the statement “[makes] clear AI is not exempt from existing non-discrimination laws and enforcement authorities.”
Suresh Venkatasubramanian, former AI adviser to the Biden administration, also viewed the statement positively. He tweeted, “This is a strong statement from the presidents of federal enforcement agencies.”
Complexities and uncertainties of AI legislation
The statement comes amid growing concerns about the potential effects of AI and automated systems on various aspects of society, such as employment, education, healthcare and criminal justice. Critics have warned that AI, in particular, can reflect and reinforce human biases, errors, and prejudices, leading to unfair or harmful outcomes for individuals or groups.
The agencies recognized that automated systems are not inherently neutral or objective and that they can be influenced by the data, algorithms and human choices that shape them. They said they would use their authority and expertise to prevent and remedy violations of the law by entities using or supplying this type of technology.
The statement also highlighted the importance of transparency, accountability and oversight in AI and automated systems, saying they are essential to building trust with consumers and the public. The agencies said they would encourage and support efforts to ensure that automated systems are explainable, auditable and responsive to feedback.
The agencies said they hoped their joint statement would serve as a “call to action” for all stakeholders involved in the development and use of automated systems to uphold the values of fairness, equality and justice.
“We recognize that achieving these goals will require long-term collaboration and dialogue between a wide range of actors,” the statement said. “We look forward to working with our partners within government and beyond to promote responsible innovation in automated systems for the benefit of all Americans.”
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