New bill would give the government oversight of critical AI use cases

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is leading a push to give the federal government more authority over artificial intelligence.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is leading a push to give the federal government more authority over artificial intelligence. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Democratic-backed AI Accountability Act of 2023 gives the Federal Trade Commission new authority and a new office to regulate how AI algorithms make critical decisions on housing, healthcare.

Democrats in the House and Senate are teaming up on legislation to give the federal government new authority to regulate artificial intelligence in “high-impact” use scenarios.

The Algorithmic Accountability Act of 2023, introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., along with Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., aims to create protections for individuals who are subject to algorithmic decision making in areas like housing, credit, education and more.

The legislation tasks the Federal Trade Commission to create regulations that provide companies operating these AI systems with concrete assessment instructions and procedures for ongoing evaluation. The bill is designed to be "a targeted response to problems already being created by AI and automated systems," according to a bill summary provided by lawmakers. 

Under the bill, the FTC would publish annually an anonymized report to create an accessible repository of automated critical decision data for consumers and advocates to access.

The bill authorizes the addition of 75 new staffers to the FTC to operate a new Bureau of Technology as a means of enforcing the legislation.

The bill’s sponsors emphasized the need for continuous prioritization of civil liberties in an increasingly automated world. 

“We know of too many real-world examples of AI systems that have flawed or biased algorithms: automated processes used in hospitals that understate the health needs of Black patients; recruiting and hiring tools that discriminate against women and minority candidates; facial recognition systems with higher error rates among people with darker skin; and more,” Booker said. “The Algorithmic Accountability Act would require that automated systems be assessed for biases, hold bad actors accountable, and ultimately help to create a safer AI future.”

Cosponsors so far include fellow Democrats in both chambers, including Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

On the House side, Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Jared Huffman, D-Calif., and Cori Bush, D-Mo.

A spokesperson for Wyden told Nextgov/FCW that the lawmaker is continuing outreach across the aisle. 

“Sen. Wyden…absolutely believes this bill should appeal to Republicans as well as Democrats who are concerned about getting AI regulations right,” the spokesperson said.