What the US' new Executive Order on AI means for your business

Enzai breaks down the US' groundbreaking Executive Order on AI
Max CluerMax Cluer
Max Cluer
2 Jan
 What the US' new Executive Order on AI means for your business

On Monday morning, October 30th, President Biden issued a long-awaited Executive Order (“EO”) on AI. In particular, the EO seeks to expand the ways in which the US will make use of Artificial Intelligence to achieve pre-existing goals, while also setting up stricter regulations on the private use of AI, in order to manage the potential risks. 

The EO is notable for its breadth and ambition, with the White House declaring its intent to lead the way globally on AI regulation. Since receiving the President’s signature on Monday, the provisions of the EO will apply across the world’s largest economy.

Such wide-ranging EOs are rare. There wasn’t an equivalent EO for data protection, which is part of the reason why the EU’s GDPR legislation was able to quickly become the global standard and initiate the ‘Brussels Effect’. This time, it seems President Biden is determined that the US will lead global efforts to regulate AI and improve governance. That the EO has been released the week of the UK’s AI Safety Summit is likely a conscious effort by the United States to set the agenda.

If you use AI in your business, then there is a good chance you will be affected by the EO. To help you better understand the effects it might have for you, Enzai has summarised below the key takeaways across eight pillars, each of which focus on targeted strategic areas.

New Standards for AI Safety and Security

The first pillar lays out a number of new measures to set standards for AI safety and security, with the aim of protecting Americans from the potential risks.

  • Mandatory Safety Test Sharing: Developers of powerful AI systems will be required to notify the Federal government when testing new models as well as to share red-team safety test results and other crucial information. This focus on testing is to be welcoming - robust testing and monitoring of AI systems can help to avoid damaging results during deployment and use.
  • Development of Standards and Testing: To ensure AI systems' safety and security prior to public release, the National Institute of Standards and Technology will craft rigorous new standards for red-team testing. The Department of Homeland Security will apply these standards to critical infrastructure sectors through establishing an AI Safety and Security Board. Additionally, the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security will address threats posed by AI systems to critical infrastructure and various risks, including chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and cybersecurity.
  • Biological Synthesis Screening: Strong new standards will be developed to protect against the misuse of AI to engineer dangerous biological materials. Agencies funding life-science projects will be required to establish these standards as a condition of federal funding.
  • AI-Enabled Fraud Prevention: The Department of Commerce will take the lead in developing standards and best practices for detecting AI-generated content and authenticating official content through watermarking. Federal agencies will use these tools to create confidence in the authenticity of government communications.
  • Advanced Cybersecurity Programme: Building upon the Biden-Harris Administration's ongoing AI Cyber Challenge, a programme will be created to find and fix vulnerabilities in critical, cybersecurity software and enhance network security. 
  • National Security Memorandum: A National Security Memorandum will be developed by the National Security Council and White House Chief of Staff to direct further action to ensure the safe, ethical, and effective use of AI by the US military and intelligence community. The memorandum will also include actions to counter the use of AI by hostile powers.

Protecting Americans' Privacy

The EO’s second pillar is the protection of individual privacy from increasingly powerful, unrestrained AI models.

  • Data Privacy Legislation: President Biden calls on Congress to pass bipartisan data privacy legislation.
  • Privacy-Preserving Techniques: The EO requires prioritising federal support for the development and use of privacy-preserving techniques. These should involve cutting-edge AI and allow AI systems to be trained while preserving data privacy.
  • Privacy-Preserving Research and Technologies: Funding will be provided to establish a Research Coordination Network, which will advance research on cryptographic tools to preserve individual privacy. The Network will collaborate with the National Science Foundation to promote the adoption of cutting-edge privacy-preserving technologies by federal agencies.
  • Evaluation of Commercially Available Information: Federal agencies will evaluate how they collect and use commercially available information, particularly data containing personally identifiable information from data brokers. Privacy guidance for federal agencies will be strengthened to account for AI-related risks.
  • Guidelines for Privacy-Preserving Techniques: Federal agencies will develop guidelines to assess the effectiveness of privacy-preserving techniques for AI.

Advancing Equity and Civil Rights

The third pillar of the EO is to ensure AI advances, rather than devolves, equity and Civil Rights in the US.

  • Preventing Discrimination: Clear guidance will be provided to landlords, Federal benefits programs, and Federal contractors to prevent the use of AI algorithms that worsen discrimination.
  • Addressing Discrimination: A multi-faceted approach will be employed by the Department of Justice and Federal civil rights offices to establish best practices for investigating and prosecuting civil rights violations related to AI to address algorithmic discrimination, including training and technical assistance.
  • Fairness in the Criminal Justice System: Best practices will be developed for the use of AI in various aspects of the criminal justice system, including sentencing, parole, probation, pretrial release, detention, risk assessments, surveillance, crime forecasting, predictive policing, and forensic analysis.

Standing Up for Consumers, Patients, and Students

The EO’s fourth pillar is ensuring that AI brings tangible benefits to consumers.

  • Responsible Use in Healthcare: The Department of Health and Human Services will establish a safety program to receive reports of and remedy harms or unsafe healthcare practices involving AI.
  • Transforming Education with AI: Resources will be created to support educators in deploying AI-enabled educational tools, including personalised tutoring in schools.

Supporting Workers

The fifth pillar is to channel AI towards increasing worker productivity, while minimising risks such as increased workplace surveillance, bias, and job displacement.

  • Principles and Best Practices: These will be developed to mitigate the harms and maximise the benefits of AI for workers. This includes addressing job displacement, labour standards, workplace equity, health, safety, and data collection.
  • Labour-Market Impact Study: A report will be produced to study the potential impacts of AI on the labour market. Options for strengthening federal support for workers facing labour disruptions, including those from AI, will be identified.

Promoting Innovation and Competition

The EO’s sixth pillar acknowledges US strength in AI innovation and outlines actions to further support innovation and competition.

  • Catalysing AI Research: A pilot of the National AI Research Resource will be launched to provide AI researchers and students access to essential AI resources and data, and provide expanded grants for AI research in critical areas such as healthcare and climate change.
  • Supporting Small Developers and Entrepreneurs: The government will provide small developers and entrepreneurs with access to technical assistance and resources to promote a fair, open, and competitive AI ecosystem. The Federal Trade Commission will be encouraged to exercise its authorities in this context.
  • Streamlining Visa Criteria: Existing powers will be used to expand the ability of highly skilled immigrants and nonimmigrants with expertise in critical areas to study, work and live in the US.

Advancing American Leadership Abroad

The seventh pillar is the harnessing of the growing power of AI to expand American leadership and power internationally.

  • International Collaborations: Efforts to collaborate on AI will be expanded through bilateral, multilateral, and multi stakeholder engagements. The State Department, in collaboration with the Commerce Department, will lead the establishment of robust international frameworks for harnessing the benefits of AI and managing its associated risks, emphasising safety.
  • Development of Vital AI Standards: The development and implementation of essential AI standards in collaboration with international partners and standards organisations will be accelerated to ensure AI is safe, secure, trustworthy, and interoperable on a global scale.
  • Promoting Responsible AI Worldwide: The responsible, safe, and rights-affirming development and deployment of AI on the global stage will be promoted.

Ensuring Responsible and Effective Government Use of AI

The eighth and final pillar of President Biden’s EO aims to make sure that the US government uses AI technology responsible and effectively.

  • Guidance for Agencies: Agencies will receive guidance on the use of AI, including clear standards to safeguard rights and safety, improve AI procurement and strengthen the deployment of AI technologies.
  • Efficient AI Procurement: Measures will be implemented to help agencies acquire AI products and services more rapidly, cost-effectively, and efficiently.
  • AI Talent Surge: The Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Digital Service, U.S. Digital Corps, and Presidential Innovation Fellowship will lead a government-wide rapid AI hiring surge.

What’s Next

As the summary above makes clear, the EO is incredibly broad and seeks to manage the benefits and risks of AI across the entire spectrum of US social, foreign and economic policy.

Domestically, the Federal Government must now comply with the EO, through the creation of numerous guidelines, programmes and enforcement mechanisms. New responsibilities have been handed not just to many Federal departments - including State, Commerce, Homeland Security and Energy - but also to a large number of lower-staffed Federal agencies. It seems likely that it will take at least a few months for many of the points mentioned in the EO to be further defined and acted upon. 

As always with these types of documents, the devil is in the detail but so far industry reaction has been largely positive to the White House’s bold movement on AI regulation. The real success of this EO will lie in how effectively federal agencies/ organisations can adopt and integrate the key principles and rules underpinning this framework.

With the UK’s AI Safety Summit taking place this week, and the EU now reaching the critical final stages of their trilogue negotiations on the EU AI Act, the world is focused on AI regulation. We hope that lawmakers can achieve sufficient alignment between these supranational regulatory initiatives to give businesses the certainty they need to build, deploy and use AI with confidence.

To learn more, read about Enzai's solutions for AI Governance, Model Risk Management, AI Regulations, Generative AI and the EU AI Act.

Build and deploy AI with confidence

Enzai's AI governance platform allows you to build and deploy AI with confidence.
Contact us to begin your AI governance journey.