DHS Charts Responsible AI Use with New Policies and Chief AI Officer

In an era of rapid technological advancement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is taking proactive steps to ensure the responsible and ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI). With a nod to transparency, privacy, and equity, the DHS has introduced a set of innovative policies designed to guide its utilization of AI and facial recognition technologies.

The DHS recognizes the potential of AI to enhance its critical missions, such as combatting drug trafficking, strengthening supply chain security, countering child exploitation, and safeguarding critical infrastructure. However, harnessing AI’s power must be done conscientiously and in a manner that respects the rights and liberties of all individuals.

As part of this endeavor, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas has appointed Eric Hysen, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of DHS, as the department’s first Chief AI Officer. In this capacity, Hysen will champion AI innovation and safety while advising the DHS leadership on AI matters.

The newly introduced policies are far-reaching. The first, known as Policy Statement 139-06, “Acquisition and Use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning by DHS Components,” establishes foundational principles. These principles include a commitment to conform to federal requirements for trustworthy AI, compliance with constitutional and legal norms, and a pledge to avoid any inappropriate biases based on factors like race, ethnicity, or gender. It’s a robust framework to ensure the ethical use of AI.

The second policy, Directive 026-11, titled “Use of Face Recognition and Face Capture Technologies,” focuses on facial recognition technologies. It mandates rigorous testing to eliminate unintended bias and disparate impact, aligning with national standards. The directive also affords U.S. citizens the right to opt out of facial recognition for specific non-law enforcement purposes. Moreover, it prohibits the use of facial recognition as the sole basis for law enforcement actions and introduces a process for departmental oversight offices to review new applications of these technologies.

The DHS’s commitment to AI responsibility goes beyond these policies. It involves continuous evaluation and oversight, with the department collaborating with internal stakeholders to ensure that AI is used equitably, effectively, and in full compliance with the law. The DHS’s work aligns with broader government efforts to encourage responsible AI development, with a focus on trustworthiness and transparency.

However, it’s important to note that AI, while a powerful tool, has its limitations. As algorithms evolve and integrate into our daily lives, the potential for errors, biases, and misinterpretations persists. This underscores the importance of stringent oversight, testing, and accountability measures to ensure that AI remains a force for good.

The DHS’s initiative stands as a testament to the commitment of government agencies to grapple with the complexities of AI responsibly. While the future of AI holds immense promise, it is essential to proceed with caution, transparency, and ethical considerations at the forefront, in a world where AI increasingly intersects with our lives.