Over the past few years, big tech companies like Facebook and Amazon have come under fire for discriminatory artificial intelligence. Now, U.S. lawmakers are presenting a bill that will make tech companies check their algorithms for biases.
Drafted by Sens. Cory Booker and Ron Wyden, the Algorithmic Accountability Act of 2019 calls for the Federal Trade Commission to require companies collecting and sharing data for the purpose of algorithms to conduct impact assessments on their privacy and AI tools.
The law notes that algorithms can contribute to and amplify “unfair, biased, or discriminatory decisions” that impact consumers. For now, the bill is aimed at big tech companies and data brokers. It would only apply to companies who are valued at more than $50 million or who have access to more than 1 million consumers’ data.
“Computers are increasingly involved in the most important decisions affecting Americans’ lives — whether or not someone can buy a home, get a job or even go to jail,” Wyden said in a statement. “But instead of eliminating bias, too often these algorithms depend on biased assumptions or data that can actually reinforce discrimination against women and people of color.”
That was seen earlier this week, after a report found Facebook’s targeted ad feature could unintentionally discriminate against protected groups. The Department of Housing and Urban Development also hit Facebook with charges due to its ad system violating the Fair Housing Act.
In 2018, Amazon was even forced to scrap an AI recruiting tool that ended up showing bias against women. The tool taught itself that men were the preferred candidates, thanks to the information it was given.
Issues with AI have also popped up in conversations about self-driving cars that are more likely to hit darker-skinned people and Google Translates’ efforts to reduce gender bias.
State-level legislation has already been passed to encourage big tech transparency. New York now has laws to regulate algorithms used by the state and hold firms accountable for their data storage. Washington state also introduced a similar bill earlier this year.