April 19, 2024
  • Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday announced a new set of mandatory rules for all government agencies using AI
  • The new requirements will become effective on December 1
  • They will ensure that AI tools do not endanger the rights and safety of Americans

White House Announces New Set of Rules for Federal Agencies Using AI

The US government has announced that federal agencies using AI tools will be required to follow new safeguards by December 1. The announcement comes from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and was made by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The new rules will be binding on all US agencies and will cover a variety of public situations such as screenings by the Transportation Security Administration and decisions made by agencies dealing with Americans’ health care, employment, and housing. 

The purpose of these new rules is to safeguard the rights of American citizens, keep their data safe and minimize discrimination by AI while continuing to expand the use of AI across various agencies.

What Changes Will We See under The New AI Safeguards?

1. The new rules make it mandatory for every government agency to publicly post a list of all AI tools they use along with reasons for use and a report on their risk assessment.

2. The agencies will have to ensure that they are not endangering the citizens’ rights and safety by using AI.

3. Every agency will have to create an AI governance board chaired by deputy secretaries.

The Departments of Defense, Housing, Veteran Affairs, and Urban Development, and State have already done that. The remaining agencies will have to catch up by May 27, 2024.

4. The White House has promised to hire 100 AI experts within the next 60 days to help promote the safe use of AI. Every agency is directed to appoint a chief AI officer as well.

It’s important to note that the government just wants AI to be an add-on – the real power should still lie within human experts.

For example, if an AI tool is used to diagnose a patient or analyze medical records, then a human expert needs to step in and check the results to ensure it’s correct.

Similarly, if AI is used by a law enforcement agency to make decisions, then those decisions should be reviewed by a human expert. Furthermore, the people affected by the outcome should have the option to seek remedy if they feel they have been wronged by the tool.

Federal agencies will also need to be transparent with the people and give them the right to decide how their data is used.

For example, the Transportation Security Administration currently uses facial recognition at airports without having to ask the passengers first. However, after the implementation of these rules, the passengers will have the option to opt out of facial recognition without any consequences.

The directive states that unless the agencies can follow these rules, they should cease to use AI in their day-to-day operations.

Several other initiatives have been included in the statement for public safety. For instance, the President’s budget for fiscal year 2025 will have $5 million dedicated to expanding the General Services Administration’s government-wide AI training program that had 7,500 participants from over 85 agencies last year.

Wrapping up, the statement said “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.”

It’s impressive how the government has handled the sudden AI boom. A lot of new initiatives and rules have already been put in place to ensure the safe use of AI. However, what’s interesting is that the above-mentioned ‘new’ directive isn’t all that new, and they have been in the making for a long time.

In 2020, Congress passed legislation directing the OMB to publish guidelines for AI use. However, they missed the 2021 deadline. After Biden signed the executive order on AI last year, they finally released the latest draft in November 2023, right on time to tackle the surging AI wave.

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