White House Unveils AI Bill of Rights

An artificial intelligence robot touching a futuristic data screen.
(Image credit: Yuichiro Chino/Getty Images)

Calling it part of the President's effort to "hold Big Tech accountable," the White House has issued what it calls a blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights for applying equity and "ethical forethought" to the design of algorithms in the face of what it called the threat from unchecked automated systems.

The Biden Administration also outlined steps the government is taking toward a more equitable and accountable system, including pointing out that the Federal Trade Commission was "exploring rules to curb commercial surveillance, algorithmic discrimination, and lax data security practices that could violate section 5 of the FTC Act."

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The White House is framing the issue as one of civil rights in a digital age, in the process painting a damning picture of current Big Tech algorithmic practices.

"Algorithms used across many sectors are plagued by bias and discrimination," the White House said, "and too often developed without regard to their real-world consequences and without the input of the people who will have to live with their results."

It said those problems have been dramatically increasing in recent years, threatening the rights of millions, particularly in marginalized communities.

The Bill of Rights comprise:

1. "Safe and Effective Systems: You should be protected from unsafe or ineffective systems.

2. "Algorithmic Discrimination Protections: You should not face discrimination by algorithms and systems should be used and designed in an equitable way.

3. "Data Privacy: You should be protected from abusive data practices via built-in protections and you should have agency over how data about you is used.

4. "Notice and Explanation: You should know when an automated system is being used and understand how and why it contributes to outcomes that impact you.

5. "Human Alternatives, Consideration, and Fallback: You should be able to opt out, where appropriate, and have access to a person who can quickly consider and remedy problems you encounter."

The White House wants equity to drive the design process of algorithms, not be addressed down the line when problems emerge "downstream."

The Administration said the rights were the product of a year-long process stemming from panel discussions, listening sessions and a formal request for information (RFI).

According to the White House, the takeaway from nearly everyone it talked to, including CEOs, entrepreneurs and software engineers, was that there was a "profound eagerness for clear federal leadership and guidelines to protect the public." ▪️

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.