The White House isn’t doing enough to address in a public forum a range of artificial intelligence issues and needs to institute a public process to seek comments on AI-related issues, said a group of six industry groups and more than 80 individuals from academia and the private sector in a July 4 letter to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

The group, spearheaded by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, took issue with the White House’s summit on “AI and American Industry” in May. The summit included more than 100 people from business and academia, and officials from the National Science Foundation, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Labor, Transportation, and Treasury. The White House also announced the formation of the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, which will advise the White House on AI research and development efforts in government and industry.

The group said in its letter “many critical issues in the AI-field were not discussed” at the summit, and it took issue that the summit was not open to the public. In terms of overlooked issues, the group noted that the words “accountability,” “transparency,” “ethics,” and “fairness” don’t appear in the White House report of the summit. Additionally, the only reference to privacy, the group said, is “an assurance that personal data can be opened to research without compromising privacy. There is a similar assurance about public safety.”

The group of nonprofits, scientific organizations and tech experts called on the OSTP to issue a Request for Information (RFI) to “to seek comments from the public and to incorporate the concerns and opinions of those whose lives will inevitably be impacted by the growing use of AI technologies.”

Additionally, the letter poses questions that OSTP should consider as it moves forward with AI:

  • What potential harms arise from the use of AI and how are these risks currently addressed?
  • What are the legal frameworks currently governing AI, and are they adequate?
  • How could companies and government agencies be more transparent in the use of AI?
  • What technical measures could promote the benefits of AI while minimizing the risks?
  • What experience have other countries had trying to address the challenges of AI?
  • What future trends concerning AI could inform the current discussion?

“The public should be given the opportunity to contribute to the Select Committee’s efforts related to AI policy,” the letter concludes. “We urge you to begin the public comment process as soon as possible.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.