The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced two new policies addressing artificial intelligence (AI) and its first chief AI officer on Thursday, with a special emphasis on preventing bias.
Eric Hysen, also DHS Chief Information Officer (CIO) and co-chair of the DHS Artificial Intelligence Task Force (AITF), will serve as the department’s first chief AI officer. In a press release, Hysen said that he would ensure the AI usage wouldn’t 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,” said Hysen.
The two new policies, “Acquisition and Use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning by DHS Components” and “Use of Face Recognition and Face Capture Technologies” emphasized the need for AI usage to avoid “inappropriate consideration of race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, nationality, medical condition, or disability,” as well as any “unintended bias or disparate impact.”
The first policy, issued last month, focused on AI use generally, as well as its counterpart, Machine Learning (ML). DHS declared it would “strive to minimize inappropriate bias” and discriminatory effects in AI use, relying on civil rights evaluation methods like disparate impact analysis. DHS also pledged to not use AI technology to enable “improper” systemic, indiscriminate, or large-scale monitoring, surveillance, or tracking systems.
Per the Department of Justice (DOJ), disparate impact avoids that which “perpetuates the repercussions of past discrimination.”
“In a disparate impact case, the investigation focuses on the consequences of the recipient’s practices, rather than the recipient’s intent,” stated the DOJ.
Under this policy, DHS announced the creation of an AI Policy Working Group (AIPWG) to work with the AITF in further development of AI policy and implementation.
The second policy, issued on 9/11, focused more specifically on face recognition and face capture technologies. DHS declared that its data collection from the technologies wouldn’t be based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, medical condition, or disability in order to “minimize bias and disparate impact.”
DHS further noted that face analysis technology, which relies on an algorithm to estimate an individual’s characteristics as captured on film, wouldn’t be used except when necessary to estimate age.
The policy designated authorities on the use of the two technologies, including the CIO; Under Secretary for Management; Under Secretary for Science and Technology; Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans; Chief Privacy Officer; Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties; General Counsel; and the Chief Information Security Officer.
The AITF developed these policies.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas created the AITF in April for the purpose of developing departmental policy on using AI. The AITF’s express goals were to enhance the integrity of the supply chain and trade, counter the flow of fentanyl in the U.S. through improved criminal detection, apprehend perpetrators and rescue victims of online child sexual exploitation and abuse, and secure critical infrastructure generally.
Hysen’s counterpart as co-chair, Dimitri Kusnezov, is the DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology. Kusnezov formerly served as the Department of Energy senior advisor and deputy under secretary for AI and technology. The remainder of the AITF consisted of the heads of all offices and agencies.
Prior to rejoining DHS and co-chairing the AITF, Hysen had a lengthy career under former President Barack Obama, as well as two major Big Tech giants.
Hysen served on the Biden-Harris Transition Team; led a joint project with the Penn-Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement while with the National Conference on Citizenship; led policy strategy for California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Government Operations Agency; directed the Justice & Opportunity Initiative under the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative; served as executive director of DHS Digital Service in the Obama administration; co-founded and managed the Obama White House Digital Service; and led Google’s Civic Engagement initiative to increase voter turnout.
In addition to the AITF and the AIPWG, the Homeland Security Advisory Council and two of its subcommittees are developing AI policy. The Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) has a group of internal stakeholders — dubbed the Responsible Use Group (RUG) — weighing in on AITF projects. Those stakeholders weren’t publicized.