Biden Protects Americans With Landmark Executive Order On AI

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President Biden has issued a major executive order that will take steps to manage the risks of AI including protecting the privacy of the American people.

According to a fact sheet from the White House as provided to PoliticusUSA:

Protecting Americans’ Privacy

Without safeguards, AI can put Americans’ privacy further at risk. AI not only makes it easier to extract, identify, and exploit personal data, but it also heightens incentives to do so because companies use data to train AI systems. To better protect Americans’ privacy, including from the risks posed by AI, the President calls on Congress to pass bipartisan data privacy legislation to protect all Americans, especially kids, and directs the following actions:

  • Protect Americans’ privacy by prioritizing federal support for accelerating the development and use of privacy-preserving techniques—including ones that use cutting-edge AI and that let AI systems be trained while preserving the privacy of the training data. 
  • Strengthen privacy-preserving research and technologies, such as cryptographic tools that preserve individuals’ privacy, by funding a Research Coordination Network to advance rapid breakthroughs and development. The National Science Foundation will also work with this network to promote the adoption of leading-edge privacy-preserving technologies by federal agencies.
  • Evaluate how agencies collect and use commercially available information—including information they procure from data brokers—and strengthen privacy guidance for federal agencies to account for AI risks. This work will focus in particular on commercially available information containing personally identifiable data.
  • Develop guidelines for federal agencies to evaluate the effectiveness of privacy-preserving techniques, including those used in AI systems. These guidelines will advance agency efforts to protect Americans’ data.

The White House Tells PoliticusUSA About The Importance Of Protecting Privacy

In a call with reporters that PoliticusUSA participated in, a White House official said:

 When it comes to privacy. Without safeguards, AI can make it easier to extract, identify, and exploit personal data, and it can heighten incentives to do so to better protect Americans’ privacy for the risks posed by artificial intelligence. The President is reiterating his continued calls to Congress to pass bipartisan data privacy legislation, protect all Americans, especially kids.

The President is not just waiting for Congress to act. With this order. He is directing the accelerated development and use of cutting-edge privacy-preserving technologies through the National Science Foundation, and other agencies. These technologies make it possible to unlock many much of the power of AI systems while preserving the privacy of Americans. The EO also funds a research coordination network to advance rapid breakthroughs and development of these new techniques related to privacy, of course, as consumers and the EEO has much to do here as well to protect consumers while ensuring that AI can improve people’s lives and livelihoods. The executive order directs Health and Human Services to establish a safety program that allows the agency to receive reports of and work to remedy harms or unsafe healthcare practices involving AI.

A Congressional Consensus On AI Legislation

The good news for the American people is that there is an overwhelming bipartisan consensus both in Congress and in public polling for AI privacy legislation. AI is not one of the sexy issues that will dominate a political campaign, but it is critical to establish safeguards for a technology that is evolving and has potential impacts that remain unknown.

AI has the potential to do a great deal of good for people, but like any tool, it could also be used to cause harm. The Biden administration is laying out a path for optimizing the good while minimizing the bad, which is the most fundamental goal of any public policy.

The prospects for an AI bill being passed and signed into law at some point are good, but will the government act fast enough to match the rapid evolution and application of the technology?

President Biden is doing his part. Congress must match his urgency.

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