DHS promotes AI use as first Chief AI Officer appointed

In a national first, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appointed a Chief Artificial Intelligence (AI) Officer last week and called for responsible use of AI by the department, based on several newly announced policies.

“Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool we must harness effectively and responsibly,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro 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.”

At the head of these efforts will be Chief Information Officer Eric Hysen, current co-chair of the DHS Artificial Intelligence Task Force. He will work to promote innovation and safe use of AI, while advising leadership on AI-related issues.  

“Artificial intelligence provides the Department with new ways to carry out our mission to secure the homeland,” Hysen said. “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.”

Those policies consisted of two directives. The first called for acquiring and using AI and machine learning that conform to existing executive orders and a restriction on the collection, use or dissemination of data used in AI activities, as well as use of AI-enabled systems that make or support racist, sexist, jingoist or other similarly inappropriately biased bases for decisions.

Second, DHS noted it would use AI in face recognition technology, but only after thorough testing to reduce risk of bias. All existing uses of the technology would be reviewed and periodic testing undertaken to push toward certain performance goals. Further, U.S. citizens will be given the right to opt out of face recognition for specific, non-law enforcement uses and law enforcement and civil enforcement will be restricted from using facial recognition as the sole basis of any enforcement action. New oversight offices will also handle all cases of face recognition and face capture technologies.

Overall, DHS implied these efforts are meant to align it more thoroughly with the modern environment, and to recognize that to avoid AI entirely would be to fall behind adversaries without such restrictions.

Chris Galford

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