The Biden Administration’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights has been public for two months, and artificial intelligence experts want to see more Federal agencies leveraging the guide to help protect the rights of Americans in an AI-powered world.

During a Brookings Institution Dec. 5 panel discussion, Sorelle Friedler, assistant director for data and democracy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), said that the blueprint is “putting the weight of the White House” behind a policy area that’s provoked a lot of conversation, but not yet led to a rush to implementation.

“We are not really breaking new ground but adding to the conversation and helping us move the conversation forward – from principles into practice,” Friedler said

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She emphasized that OSTP’s technical companion to the blueprint should serve as a roadmap for agencies to implement transparent and accountable AI tools in government, and provide insight into what the current guidelines would look like as policy.

Friedler said the non-binding policy document is focused on putting a more governmentwide attention on the automated systems that have the “potential to meaningfully impact individuals or communities’ rights, opportunities, or access” to government services.

“More and more, we’re seeing these technologies drive real harms. Harms that run counter to our core democratic values, including the fundamental right to privacy, freedom from discrimination, and our basic dignity,” Friedler said.

She hopes that OSTP’s guidelines will become a standard practice, so that protections are put in place before harm occurs. Friedler said this is something her office has observed the private sector doing well, but wants to see them do more ethical testing on their innovations.

The Biden administration is continuing to meet with companies on developing their own ethical AI principles, Friedler said. “There are a lot of chances for innovation and making this an industry competitive advantage, to really make AI that people trust, that respects our rights,” she said.

Alex Engler, a governance studies fellow at Brookings, said the bill of rights is a “welcome and important step” from the Federal government. However, he expects the process to adopt the document into practice will be “long [and] ongoing” and chock-full of tech challenges.

Harlan Yu, Executive Director for nonprofit Upturn, echoed Engler’s sentiment, adding that the White House’s guidelines are “mile one of a long marathon,” and the hard work is still to come.

The blueprint should be an impetus for the administration and Congress to introduce rulemaking and guidance, Yu said, adding, “This document, in the long term, will be judged not by what’s on paper, but all the concrete actions that are going to flow from this document, particularly from the federal agencies.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.