FTC votes to streamline investigations into AI products

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In a 3-0 vote, the Federal Trade Commission approved a resolution that will let agency staff issue certain demands when investigating artificial intelligence-based services and products for potential market violations.

The Federal Trade Commission voted on Tuesday to approve a resolution allowing the agency to more easily obtain information in nonpublic investigations concerning products and services that use artificial intelligence.

Passed in a 3-0 vote, the approved resolution enables the FTC’s staff to issue civil investigative demands into AI products and services — a type of compulsory process that operates like a subpoena — to police unlawful market behavior concerning such products. Under the resolution, FTC staff conducting AI-related investigations will not have to get a full Commission vote to advance an investigation into a given AI product.

“Although AI, including generative AI, offers many beneficial uses, it can also be used to engage in fraud, deception, infringements on privacy and other unfair practices, which may violate the FTC Act and other laws,” the FTC press release reads. “At the same time, AI can raise competition issues in a variety of ways, including if one or just a few companies control the essential inputs or technologies that underpin AI.”

This resolution, which will be in effect for the next ten years, aims to advance consumer protections for retailed AI devices.

The FTC has previously issued warnings to the public about misuse of increasingly-powerful AI systems, emphasizing the maintenance of AI ethics staff and combating disinformation

In April, the FTC spearheaded a pledge with three other federal agencies to police biases and crime related to AI systems. These efforts come as President Joe Biden has pushed executive action to further investigate the benefits and dangers of AI usage, while legislative regulations for emerging technologies like AI remain scant.