The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has appointed Eric Hysen as the agency’s first-ever chief AI officer, in addition to this current role as the DHS chief information officer.

“In this role, Hysen will promote AI innovation and safety within the Department, along with advising Secretary Mayorkas and Department leadership on AI issues,” DHS said in a Sept. 14 statement.

News of Hysen’s appointment came along with the agency’s announcement of new policies governing its use of AI technologies, as developed by the DHS Artificial Intelligence Task Force.

“The Department uses AI technologies to advance its missions, including combatting fentanyl trafficking, strengthening supply chain security, countering child sexual exploitation, and protecting critical infrastructure,” DHS said.

In connection with the new AI use policies, DHS also went public with updated policies governing how the agency uses facial recognition technologies.

The announcement on facial recognition technology uses follows close on the heels of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report this week criticizing DHS and the Justice Department for employing facial recognition technologies from 2019 to 2022 without requiring proper staff training to do so.

On the policy front, DHS released an AI policy statement dated Aug. 8, and stated that under the policy, “DHS systems, programs, and activities using AI will conform to the requirements of Executive Order 13960, Promoting the Use of Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence in?the Federal Government.”

DHS said that under the new policy it will “only acquire and use AI in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution and all other applicable laws and policies,” and that it will not collect or use “data used in AI activities, or establish AI-enabled?systems that make or support decisions, based on the inappropriate consideration of race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, nationality, medical condition, or disability.”

Regarding use of facial recognition technologies, DHS published a Sept. 11 policy statement, which the agency said “dictates that all uses of face recognition and face capture technologies will be thoroughly tested to ensure there is no unintended bias or disparate impact in accordance with national standards.”

As part of that policy, DHS will review all existing uses of facial recognition tech, conduct periodic testing of all systems, and give U.S. citizens the right to opt out of facial recognition “for specific,?non-law enforcement uses,” and prohibit use of the technology as the “sole basis of any law or civil enforcement related action.”

“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,” Secretary Mayorkas said of the DHS AI policy.

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

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.