White House Unveils Principles on Regulating Private Sector Use of Artificial Intelligence

January 10, 2020

The White House’s guidance to federal agencies on “regulatory and non-regulatory oversight of AI applications” reveals optimism about the ultimate impact of the technology in areas such as discrimination.

“The deployment of AI holds the promise,” the memo reads, “to improve safety, fairness, welfare, transparency, and other social goals, and America’s maintenance of its status as a global leader in AI development is vital to preserving our economic and national security.”

The memo outlines 10 principles, including calling on agencies to prioritize public feedback, base their regulatory decisions on scientific data, consider issues of fairness and non-discrimination, and adopt approaches that allow for the growth of technology.

“These regulatory principles are designed to achieve three goals,” noted U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios: “Ensure public engagement, limit regulatory overreach, and promote trustworthy technology.”

Development of AI and trust:  The memo notes that “[AI’s] continued adoption and acceptance will depend significantly on public trust and validation.”  Chief among the challenges to this: “privacy, individual rights, autonomy, and civil liberties.”

Why it matters:  Whether the principles have time to impact the federal government’s regulatory approach to the use of artificial intelligence may depend on the 2020 election.  However, it articulates an alternative approach to regulatory schemes that have been based on more pessimistic prognoses of the technology.