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Does the White House AI Bill of Rights Amount To Anything?

Tech industry watchers aren’t sure

Recently, the White House has been advertising a blueprint for its “AI Bill of Rights”: “To advance President Biden’s vision, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has identified five principles that should guide the design, use, and deployment of automated systems to protect the American public in the age of artificial intelligence.”

Summarized at CNN, these principles are

That people should be protected from systems deemed “unsafe or ineffective;” that people shouldn’t be discriminated against via algorithms and that AI-driven systems should be made and used “in an equitable way;” that people should be kept safe “from abusive data practices” by safeguards built in to AI systems and have control over how data about them is used; that people should be aware when an automated system is in use and be aware of how it could affect them; and that people should be able to opt out of such systems “where appropriate” and get help from a person instead of a computer.

Rachael Metz, “The White House released an ‘AI Bill of Rights’” at CNN Business (October 5, 2022)

At Technology Review, we are told that it is “the first big step to hold AI to account”:

The OSTP’s AI Bill of Rights is “impressive,” says Marc Rotenberg, who heads the Center for AI and Digital Policy, a nonprofit that tracks AI policy.

“This is clearly a starting point. That doesn’t end the discussion over how the US implements human-centric and trustworthy AI,” he says.” But it is a very good starting point to move the US to a place where it can carry forward on that commitment.”

Willmary Escoto, US policy analyst for the digital rights group Access Now, says the guidelines skillfully highlight the “importance of data minimization” while “naming and addressing the diverse harms people experience from other AI-enabled technologies, like emotion recognition.”

Melissa Heikkilä, “The White House just unveiled a new AI Bill of Rights” at Technology Review (October 4, 2022)

From Wired, we hear a more jaundiced view: It’s “largely toothless”:

But the document is a white paper, which does not have the force of law. It’s primarily aimed at the federal government, and could influence which technologies government agencies acquire, or help parents, workers, policymakers, and designers ask tough questions about artificial intelligence systems. However, it can’t constrain large tech companies, which arguably play a bigger role in shaping future applications of AI.

Jennifer Conrad, “Biden’s AI Bill of Rights Is Toothless Against Big Tech” at Wired (October 6, 2022)

One wonders how the AI Bill of Rights would impact PayPal’s recent announcement that it would “fine” users $2500 for “disinformation”… If it can’t address something like that…

At Venturebeat, we get an analysis of what it does and doesn’t do: Among the “doesn’ts” is this:

The AI Bill of Rights, Engler said, does reveal the limitations of a voluntary, agency-led approach — since there were several sectors that are notably missing, including educational access, worker surveillance and — most concerning — almost anything from law enforcement.

“One is left to doubt that federal law enforcement has taken steps to curtail inappropriate use of algorithmic tools like undocumented use of facial recognition, or to really affirmatively say that there are limits to what computer surveillance and computer vision can do, or that weapon detection might not be very reliable,” Engler said. “It’s not clear that they’re going to voluntarily self-curtail their own use of these systems, and that is a really significant drawback.”

Sharon Goldman, “3 things the AI Bill of Rights does (and 3 things it doesn’t)” at VentureBeat (October 7, 2022)

Perhaps the federal government hesitates to take on Big Tech, preferring to co-operate for mutual benefit and to dissent only on items of little impact.

We’ll keep you posted as tech mavens weigh in…


You may also wish to read: The Courts: May social media censor speech and ban users? Two big state federal appeals courts came down on opposite sides. Hear the story. NetChoice, Big Social Media’s trade association, is not pleased with the view that platforms are not like newspapers. Who’s right is a hard call. (Richard Stevens)


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Does the White House AI Bill of Rights Amount To Anything?