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DHS reveals AI policies to prevent 'unintended bias' with use of face recognition tech, hires first AI officer

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Department of Homeland Security revealed new artificial intelligence policies and hired its first chief AI officer, according to a Thursday press release.

The DHS announced two new policies, "Acquisition and Use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning by DHS Components" and "Use of Face Recognition and Face Capture Technologies."

"The Department uses AI technologies to advance its missions, including combatting fentanyl trafficking, strengthening supply chain security, countering child sexual exploitation, and protecting critical infrastructure. These new policies establish key principles for the responsible use of AI and specify how DHS will ensure that its use of face recognition and face capture technologies is subject to extensive testing and oversight," the press release stated.

The first policy rolled out a "clear set of principles" for the DHS' use of machine learning technology. The department must adhere to the requirements of Executive Order 13960, Promoting the Use of Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence in the Federal Government. Additionally, the DHS must use AI "in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution and all other applicable laws and policies."

The DHS noted that it will "continually strive to minimize inappropriate bias," according to the policy. Lastly, the department cannot "collect, use, or disseminate data used in AI activities, or establish AI-enabled systems that make or support decisions, based on the inappropriate consideration of race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, nationality, medical condition, or disability."

The second policy implemented by the department states that the DHS must ensure "all uses of face recognition and face capture technologies will be thoroughly tested to ensure there is no unintended bias or disparate impact in accordance with national standards."

"The Directive also requires that U.S. citizens be afforded the right to opt-out of face recognition for specific, non-law enforcement uses, prohibits face recognition from being used as the sole basis of any law or civil enforcement related action, and establishes a process for Department oversight offices including the Privacy Office, the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), and the Office of the Chief Information Officer, to review all new uses of face recognition and face capture technologies," the policy stated.

Biden's DHS noted that the administration is committed to "responsible use" of AI technology and that the policies were developed by the department's Artificial Intelligence Task Force, which DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas formed in April.

"Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool we must harness effectively and responsibly," Mayorkas said. "Our Department must continue to keep pace with this rapidly evolving technology, and do so in a way that is transparent and respectful of the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of everyone we serve."

In addition to the new guardrails, the DHS appointed Chief Information Officer Eric Hysen as the department's first chief AI officer. Hysen will be responsible for promoting AI innovation and safety.

"I am grateful that Eric Hysen, who already co-chairs our Artificial Intelligence Task Force, has agreed to serve as our Department's first Chief AI Officer, providing the leadership and experience necessary to harness AI's enormous potential and ensure its responsible use across DHS," Mayorkas stated.

Hysen stated that AI technology will provide the DHS with new ways to protect the country. He noted that he is committed to ensuring the department's use of AI would not result in "discrimination."

"The policies we are announcing today will ensure that the Department's use of AI is free from discrimination and in full compliance with the law, ensuring that we retain the public's trust," Hysen said.

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