Biden Administration Issues Sweeping Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence
The Biden Administration issued a sweeping Executive Order directing a broad set of government actions addressing consumer harms, discrimination, privacy protections and other issues stemming from the widespread use of artificial intelligence. While the Executive Order sets forth a set of requirements to various federal agencies, the actions will establish important standards and expectations applicable to the federal government and have a resulting impact on private sector actions.
The Executive Order defines new standards for AI safety and security that will have a direct impact on a variety of agencies — technology, banking, education, health care, and housing,
As a general matter, federal agencies have been ordered to take steps to protect privacy and civil rights, and to increase research to promote competition and advance U.S. leadership in the AI field. The immediate impact of the executive order, however, is hard to gauge since it depends on the specific steps ordered by various federal agencies.
Sill in the offing, Congress has been pressured to address AI policy issues through comprehensive legislation. Those efforts are ongoing, and it is not known when, or whether, Congress will be able to enact comprehensive AI legislation.
The Executive Order specifically mandates that:
- The Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology set standards for security testing to ensure protection of national security, and public health and safety issues.
- The Department of Commerce develop guidance for content authentication and watermarking AI-generated content.
- The Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) clarify key issues at the between intellectual property and artificial intelligence. The PTO Director has been ordered to publish guidance to patent examiners and applicants addressing “inventorship and the use of AI, including generative AI, in the inventive process.”
- The Department of Homeland Security establish AI Safety and Security Board and adopt standards for critical infrastructure sectors.
- Several federal agencies to craft policies to prevent bias and discrimination concerns raised by AI technologies: (1) Department of Labor has been directed to issue principles to mitigate harms from AI-based tracking of workers’ activities and productivity; (2) Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to issue guidance on the possible discriminatory impact of algorithmic tenant screening and advertising practices.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture must act to ensure that AI technology does not violate the equitable administration of government programs and benefits.
The Executive Order directs the government to promote federal research to address privacy concerns.
The impact of the Executive Order will depend significantly on the specific steps taken by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to establish technical standards for AI models, privacy and authentication of AI systems.
Amid increasing concerns over discrimination resulting from AI systems, the Executive Order directs development of new standards to mitigate discrimination and bias in housing, employment, health care, banking and other important sectors of the U.S. economy.