As use of AI spreads, Congress seeks to curb it


There is a bipartite agreement in Washington that the U.S. government should do more to support the development of artificial intelligence Technology. The Trump administration has redirected research funding to AI programs; President Biden’s science adviser Eric Lander said of AI last month that “America’s economic prosperity depends on fundamental investments in our technological leadership.”

At the same time, parts of the US government are working to put limits on algorithms in order to prevent discrimination, injustice or waste. the White House, lawmakers on both sides and federal agencies, including the Department of Defense and the National Institute of Standards and Technology all work on invoices or projects to limit the potential downsides of AI.

Biden’s science and technology policy office is working to address the risks of discrimination caused by algorithms. The National Defense Authorization Act spent in january introduced new support for AI projects, including a new White House office to coordinate AI research, but also asked the Pentagon to assess the ethical dimensions of AI technology it it acquires and NIST to develop standards to control the technology.

In the past three weeks, the Government Accountability Office, which audits the spending and management of the US government and is known as the Congressional Watchdog, has issued two reports warning that federal enforcement agencies laws do not properly monitor the use and potential errors of algorithms used in criminal cases. surveys. One aimed face recognition, the other to forensic algorithms for facial, fingerprint and DNA analysis; both were prompted by requests from lawmakers to examine potential issues with the technology. A third GAO report established guidelines for responsible use of AI in government projects.

Helen Toner, director of strategy at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology in Georgetown, says the hustle and bustle of AI activity provides a case study of what happens when Washington wakes up to new technologies.

In the mid-2010s, lawmakers didn’t pay much attention, as researchers and tech companies led to a rapid increase in the capabilities and use of AI, conquer champions at Go inaugurate smart speakers in kitchens and bedrooms. Technology has become a mascot of American innovation and a talking point for some tech-centric lawmakers. Now the conversations have become more balanced and professional, says Toner. “As this technology is used in the real world, you run into problems that you need political and government responses to. “

Face recognition, the subject of GAO’s first summer report on AI, caught the attention of federal lawmakers and bureaucrats. Nearly two dozen American cities have use prohibited by local government technology, generally citing concerns about accuracy, which studies have found are often worse in people with darker skin.

The GAO tech report was requested by six Democratic representatives and senators, including the chairs of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees. He revealed that 20 federal agencies that employ law enforcement officers are using the technology, with some using it to identify those suspected of crimes during the Jan.6 assault on the U.S. Capitol or protests after the murder. of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police in 2020.

Fourteen agencies bought their facial recognition technology outside of the federal government, but 13 did not track the systems used by their employees. The GAO has advised agencies to monitor facial recognition systems more closely to avoid risks of discrimination or invasion of privacy.

The GAO report appears to have increased the odds of bipartisan legislation restricting government use of facial recognition. In a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security held Tuesday to analyze the GAO report, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), chair of the subcommittee, said said she believed this underscored the need for regulation. The technology is currently not restricted by federal law. Ranking member Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) representative agreed. “I have huge concerns, the technology is problematic and inconsistent,” he said. “If we talk about finding some kind of meaningful regulation and oversight of facial recognition technology, I think we can find a lot of common ground.”



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