WASHINGTON – Today, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) launched a request for comment (RFC) to advance its efforts to ensure artificial intelligence (AI) systems work as claimed – and without causing harm. The insights gathered through this RFC will inform the Biden Administration’s ongoing work to ensure a cohesive and comprehensive federal government approach to AI-related risks and opportunities.
While people are already realizing the benefits of AI, there are a growing number of incidents where AI and algorithmic systems have led to harmful outcomes. There is also growing concern about potential risks to individuals and society that may not yet have manifested, but which could result from increasingly powerful systems. Companies have a responsibility to make sure their AI products are safe before making them available. Businesses and consumers using AI technologies and individuals whose lives and livelihoods are affected by these systems have a right to know that they have been adequately vetted and risks have been appropriately mitigated.
“Responsible AI systems could bring enormous benefits, but only if we address their potential consequences and harms. For these systems to reach their full potential, companies and consumers need to be able to trust them,” said Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator. “Our inquiry will inform policies to support AI audits, risk and safety assessments, certifications, and other tools that can create earned trust in AI systems.”
NTIA’s “AI Accountability Policy Request for Comment” seeks feedback on what policies can support the development of AI audits, assessments, certifications and other mechanisms to create earned trust in AI systems that they work as claimed. Much as financial audits create trust in the accuracy of a business’ financial statements, so for AI, such mechanisms can help provide assurance that an AI system is trustworthy in that it does what it is intended to do without adverse consequences.
Just as food and cars are not released into the market without proper assurance of safety, so too AI systems should provide assurance to the public, government, and businesses that they are fit for purpose. NTIA is seeking input on what policies should shape the AI accountability ecosystem, including topics such as:
- What kinds of trust and safety testing should AI development companies and their enterprise clients conduct.
- What kinds of data access is necessary to conduct audits and assessments.
- How can regulators and other actors incentivize and support credible assurance of AI systems along with other forms of accountability.
- What different approaches might be needed in different industry sectors—like employment or health care.
President Biden has been clear that when it comes to AI, we must both support responsible innovation and ensure appropriate guardrails to protect Americans’ rights and safety. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights provides an important framework to guide the design, development, and deployment of AI and other automated systems. The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) AI Risk Management Framework serves as a voluntary tool that organizations can use to manage risks posed by AI systems.
Comments will be due 60 days from publication of the RFC in the Federal Register.
About the National Telecommunications and Information Administration
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is the Executive Branch agency that advises the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA’s programs and policymaking focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, advancing public safety communications, and ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for innovation and economic growth.