In what could be termed yet another initiative to promote the use of responsible and trustworthy artificial intelligence (AI), the Biden administration has unveiled a new “AI Bill of Rights” which identifies some key principles to protect the rights of the American public in the age of AI.
The document, while acknowledging the great transformative power of artificial intelligence, provides a blueprint to avert potential harms caused by unaccountable algorithms and to protect civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy.
On Oct. 4 the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a set of voluntary guidelines, the Blueprint for an “AI Bill of Rights”, for governments at all levels to companies of all sizes. It identifies five principles to guide the design, use, and deployment of automated systems to protect all people against potential harms.
“Where existing law or policy—such as sector-specific privacy laws and oversight requirements—do not already provide guidance, the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights should be used to inform policy decisions,” reads an explainer by the OSTP.
The five aspirational and interrelated, yet non-binding, principles are: 1). Safe and Effective Systems 2). Algorithmic Discrimination Protections 3). Data Privacy 4). Notice and Explanation and 5). Human Alternatives, Consideration, and Fallback.
According to the first principle, individuals should be protected from unsafe or ineffective systems. The second principle is about discrimination individuals could face by algorithms and stresses that systems should be used and designed in an equitable way. As per the third principle, individuals should be protected from abusive data practices via built-in protections and they should have agency over how data about them is used. The fourth principle stresses that individuals should know that an automated system is being used and understand how and why it contributes to outcomes that impact them. The fifth principle says that individuals should be able to opt out, where appropriate, and have access to a person who can quickly consider and remedy problems they encounter.
While the White House’s new initiative drew widespread media attention it wasn’t without criticism.
For example, the WIRED termed the “AI Bill of Rights” as toothless against big tech. The Wall Street Journal quoting some tech executives wrote that “the nonbinding guidelines could lead to stifling regulation concerning artificial intelligence.”
“The Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights notably does not set out specific enforcement actions, but instead is intended as a White House call to action for the U.S.,” reads a news report by the Associated Press.
As per the document, the blueprint was developed through extensive consultation—with stakeholders from impacted communities to experts and practitioners as well as policymakers—on the issue of algorithmic and data-driven harms and potential remedies.