US Watchdog on AI Compliance

The Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Ben Winters commended the joint statement on enforcement released by federal agencies, describing it as a positive initial step. Winters emphasized that there is a misconception that AI is completely unregulated, asserting that using AI for decision-making does not exempt companies from responsibility for the impacts of those decisions. He stated, “This is our opinion on this. We’re watching.”

Director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, Rohit Chopra, revealed that the agency has already taken action to strengthen its capabilities by hiring data scientists and technologists to address the challenges posed by AI. The agency is also actively identifying potential illegal activities.

The Federal Trade Commission, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Justice, along with the CFPB, are devoting resources and staff to tackle the negative effects that emerging technologies could have on consumers’ lives. The aim is to ensure that companies comprehend how their AI systems make decisions. When algorithms operate in ways that are too opaque to explain, regulators insist that they should not be utilized.

Chopra highlighted the mistaken belief that AI eliminates bias, saying, “I think there was a sense that, ‘Oh, let’s just give it to the robots and there will be no more discrimination.’ I think the learning is that that actually isn’t true at all. In some ways, the bias is built into the data.”

EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows underlined that the commission will take enforcement actions against AI hiring technology that discriminates against individuals with disabilities and against “bossware” that engages in unlawful worker surveillance. Burrows also expressed concerns about algorithms that could dictate employees’ work arrangements in violation of existing laws. She emphasized that while recognizing the evolving nature of technology, the message remains clear that existing laws apply, and enforcement tools are available.

During a conference, OpenAI’s top lawyer, Jason Kwon, suggested that establishing standards should be the first step in regulation, calling for industry consensus on such standards. The decision on whether to make them mandatory and the process for updating them should be subjects for further discussion.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman stressed the necessity of government intervention to mitigate the risks associated with increasingly powerful AI systems. He proposed the formation of a US or global agency responsible for licensing and regulating AI technology.

While comprehensive AI rules are not currently on Congress’s agenda, as seen in European lawmakers’ actions, concerns expressed by society prompted tech CEOs, including Altman, to attend a meeting at the White House to address the implications of these tools.

Winters from the Electronic Privacy Information Center urged the agencies to conduct in-depth studies and publish information about the AI market, industry practices, major players, and data usage. He cited the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s successful efforts in understanding new consumer finance products and technologies, particularly with “Buy Now, Pay Later” companies, as an example to follow. Winters emphasized that publishing this information would greatly contribute to a better understanding of the AI ecosystem.

Regulators in the US are taking steps to ensure that companies comply with the law when utilizing AI systems. They are addressing transparency, bias, and adherence to existing regulations to protect consumers from potential harm. The role of government intervention and the need for an industry-led approach to regulation remain subjects of ongoing discussion. As AI continues to shape various aspects of society, understanding the implications and risks associated with this technology is crucial.