US regulators warn they have already got the facility to prosecute AI bias

Four U.S. federal agencies warned on Tuesday that they already have powers to combat artificial intelligence harm and plan to use it.

The warning comes as Congress grapples with how it should take action to protect Americans from potential risks from AI. The urgency behind this push has increased as the technology has rapidly evolved with tools readily available to consumers such as OpenAI’s chatbot ChatGPT. Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., announced he was working on a broad framework for AI legislation, noting that it was a key priority in Congress.

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But even as lawmakers try to write targeted rules for the new technology, regulators claim they already have the tools to prosecute companies that misuse or misuse AI in a variety of ways.

In a joint announcement by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Department of Justice, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, regulators laid out some of the ways existing laws would allow them to take action against companies for their use of AI.

For example, according to Rohit Chopra, the agency’s director, the CFPB investigates what is known as digital redlining, or housing discrimination that arises from bias in lending or home valuation algorithms. CFPB also plans to propose rules to ensure AI home valuation models offer protections against discrimination.

“There is no exemption in our country’s civil rights laws for new technology and artificial intelligence, which unlawfully discriminates,” Chopra told reporters during a virtual news briefing Tuesday.

“Any agency here today has legal authority to willingly combat AI-related harm,” said FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan. “Companies should be aware that systems that encourage fraud or perpetuate unlawful bias may violate FTC law. There is no AI exception to the laws on the books.”

Khan added that the FTC stands ready to hold companies accountable for their claims of what their AI technology can do, adding that enforcement against misleading marketing has long been part of the agency’s expertise.

The FTC also stands ready to take action against companies unlawfully attempting to block new entrants in the AI ​​markets, Khan said.

“A handful of powerful firms now control the necessary raw materials, not just the vast data stores, but also the cloud services and computing power, that startups and other companies rely on to develop and deploy AI products,” Khan said . “And that control could provide an opportunity for companies to engage in unfair practices.”

Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ’s Division of Civil Rights, pointed to a prior settlement with Meta on allegations that the company used algorithms that unlawfully discriminated on the basis of gender and race when displaying housing ads.

“The Department of Civil Rights is committed to using federal civil rights laws to hold companies accountable when they use artificial intelligence in ways that are found to be discriminatory,” Clarke said.

EEOC chair Charlotte Burrows pointed to the use of AI for hiring and recruiting, saying it could lead to biased decisions if trained on biased datasets. This practice can appear to discard any candidates that don’t look like those in the selected group that the AI ​​was trained to identify.

But regulators also acknowledged that Congress has room for manoeuvre.

“I think it’s important for Congress to deal with this,” Burrows said. “I don’t want in any way to undermine the fact that I think we have fairly robust tools for some of the issues that we’re seeing around these important conversations and the notion that we need to do more as well.”

“Artificial intelligence today poses some of the greatest threats of today when it comes to discrimination, and these issues require more scrutiny and investigation by policymakers and others,” Clarke said, adding that authorities now have “an arsenal basic civil rights laws”. to “hold bad actors to account”.

“As we continue enforcement on the part of the authorities, we welcome the work of others to figure out how to ensure we can keep up with the escalating threats we’re seeing today,” Clarke said.

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