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Federal Agency Recommends Audits of AI Systems to Ensure Transparency and Accountability

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Mar 29, 2024

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released its AI Accountability Policy Report, which called for independent audits of high-risk artificial intelligence (AI) systems, Roll Call reported

The report recommended establishing a system of audits for AI systems that would ensure transparency as well as hold tech companies accountable for potential risks and harms. The system would improve transparency into AI systems, institute independent evaluations to verify the claims made about these systems, and mandate consequences for imposing unacceptable risks or making unfounded claims.

“Responsible AI innovation will bring enormous benefits, but we need accountability to unleash the full potential of AI,” said  NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson, who is also an assistant secretary of Commerce for communications and information, and in a statement. “NTIA’s AI Accountability Policy recommendations will empower businesses, regulators, and the public to hold AI developers and deployers accountable for AI risks, while allowing society to harness the benefits that AI tools offer.”

The AI Accountability Policy Report makes eight sets of policy recommendations across three categories to accomplish these goals: guidance, support and regulations.

Congress has also been at work on legislation concerning the technology, Roll Call reported.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced a bill that would create an advisory body of industry experts to guide the Commerce Department on standards for AI systems in use at infrastructure facilities, within criminal justice systems, in the collection of biometric information, and other critical areas.

Not all of the recommendations in the NTIA report require legislation, Davidson told reporters, according to Roll Call, adding that the agency is working with Congress on those issues. 

Other regulatory agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau , the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), the Federal Trade Commission and others that are already looking at how to regulate AI systems within their respective fields, can incorporate auditing mechanisms, said Davidson. 

Labels similar to Energy Star ratings and other similar seals of approval could help consumers figure out whether they can trust AI systems, he said. 

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