Civil Rights, Tech Groups Call on Biden to Protect Public from Harms of AI

Contact: Mattie Goldman, [email protected]

WASHINGTON – Several prominent civil rights, technology policy, and progressive groups are calling on President Joe Biden to focus a forthcoming executive order on artificial intelligence (AI) on protecting the public from the potential harms posed by the technology.

A letter from the groups to the White House on Thursday says that protecting civil rights and civil liberties, ensuring privacy, and advancing equity should be at the center of the order. It urges the White House to make the five principles outlined in last year’s AI Bill of Rights the centerpiece of an order protecting the American public and those workers affected by AI.

The letter is signed by the Center for American Progress, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Center for Democracy & Technology, Data & Society Research Institute, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, NAACP, Public Citizen, Public Knowledge, and UnidosUS.

“Simply put, the federal government should not use an AI system unless it is shown to be effective, safe, and nondiscriminatory. AI should work, and work for everyone,” the letter says.

The groups want the executive order to make the AI Bill of Rights binding U.S. policy on the use of AI tools by all federal agencies, contractors, and those receiving federal grants. It should also order the government to implement the best practices outlined in the AI Bill of Rights and ensure that federal agencies and contractors cannot deploy or must stop using automated systems that do not abide by these principles.  Federal agencies funding, acquiring, or using an AI system have a responsibility to ensure that the system works and is fit for purpose.

“The Biden administration has invested a tremendous amount of time and effort to develop the landmark Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights,” said Patrick Gaspard, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress. “The upcoming AI executive order is the perfect opportunity to turn these principles into binding U.S. policy and for the president to center democracy and rights in the future of how these powerful tools are used.”

“The forthcoming AI Executive Order provides an opportunity for the administration to continue its leadership by making the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights binding policy,” said Alexandra Givens, President and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology. “The Bill of Rights articulates essential principles for helping to ensure rights-respecting, responsible development and use of AI by the government, which will also serve as a model for the private sector and internationally.”

“Everyone deserves fairness and equity. As AI use grows, it’s the responsibility of government agencies to ensure that everyone is protected from its potential harms and has access to its benefits. This is an integral part of our democratic values,” said Anita Banerji, Senior Program Director, Media and Technology at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “The anticipated Executive Order on AI must direct agencies to ensure that the AI systems they use, procure, or fund protect people’s civil rights instead of furthering discrimination or harm.”

Adopting the five core principles of the AI Bill of Rights will ensure that AI systems and tools used by the government, contractors, and vendors, are safe and do not perpetuate or exacerbate bias, the letter says. It would increase the responsible use of these systems in workplaces and make AI systems accountable to the American people. It urges federal agencies to implement regulations needed to realize the goals of the AI Bill of Rights.

Click here to see a copy of the letter.

For more information, or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at [email protected].