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  • Marijan Hassan - Tech Journalist

White House orders federal agencies to implement AI safeguards and governance council

The White House has rolled out a series of directives for federal agencies as part of its effort to govern AI deployment and use. Vice President Kamala Harris announced the order, emphasizing its multifaceted objectives which include:

  • Strengthen AI safety and security

  • Protect the privacy or American citizens

  • Advance equity and civil rights

  • Advance American leadership in the AI space

The White House developed a set of stringent safeguards that federal agencies must adhere to starting December 1.

For starters, agencies must test and monitor how AI impacts the public ensuring that it’s not fallible to  algorithmic discrimination — an issue that has plagued the use of AI in healthcare, housing, education, criminal justice and many more sectors.

The new order also mandates transparency and consumer choice, requiring agencies that employ AI to notify the public and hive them the option to opt out.

The White House used the Transportation Security Administration as an example noting that it uses facial recognition at all airports largely without asking or notifying people passing through. With the new directive, passengers will have a right to opt out of TSA facial recognition “without any delay or losing their place in line.”

The White House further emphasized the importance of human oversight when applying AI solutions noting that if an agency cannot apply these safeguards, then it must cease using the AI system. That is unless the agency can prove that “doing so would increase risks to safety or rights overall or would create an unacceptable impediment to critical agency operations.

The order contains several other measures including a provision to upskill federal workers to learn more about AI. The White House plans to recruit 100 AI professionals by summer 2024 and has allocated $5 million to expand AI training programs.

Federal agencies must also designate chief AI officers and AI governance boards chaired by deputy secretaries will also be required.

“With these actions, the Administration is demonstrating that Government is leading by example as a global model for the safe, secure, and trustworthy use of AI,” the White House said.

However, concerns linger regarding the absence of comprehensive federal AI regulation, with comparisons drawn to the European Union's strides in AI governance. The absence of federal legislation has prompted individual states to enact their own laws, adding compliance burdens for startups and SMBs.

“An overarching AI legislation will be greatly beneficial for sustainable innovation and long-term competitiveness of US tech firms on the global AI market,” Ilia Kolochenko, CEO at ImmuniWeb noted.


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