President Biden issues executive order to set standards for AI safety and security

Anton Ioffe - October 30th 2023 - 6 minutes read

As we move into an era marked by the increasing integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in all facets of our daily operations, questions of safety, security, and fairness take center stage. President Biden has recently signed an executive order intended to guide AI usage and development, with far-reaching implications for not just technology startup and business arena but also civil rights and global governance. In this article, you'll get a deep dive into the implications of this order, its components, the measures planned for AI safety assurance, and the balance it seeks to strike between technological advances and civil rights. We'll be navigating complexities of policy-making, deciphering legal language, and investigating the potential global impact - ensuring you're off to grips with the newest direction in AI regulation. Buckle up for an intriguing journey into the future of AI under Biden's administration!

The Legal and Policy Context of Biden's AI Executive Order

The emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) applying significant transformative potential, however, has subsequently engendered a myriad of risks that necessitate comprehensive regulation. A consequence of recent, heated international debates, the need for a holistic AI safety standard has been highlighted more than ever. Key global institutions such as the United Nations, advancing exploration into AI governance, the G7, emphasizing international cooperation, and the UK, hosting a global summit on AI safety, have been instrumental in these discussions. This international dialogue serves as the backdrop against which President Biden's executive order outlining new standards for AI safety and security finds necessary relevance.

Predominantly, the earlier landscape of AI safety regulation heavily relied on the 'soft law,' or voluntary commitments from major AI developers. However, this approach has been phased out to incorporate a more active regulatory model, pushed forward by Biden's recent executive order. To appreciate this shift, it is key to recognize Japan's leadership in the Hiroshima Process, which focus on cooperation and dialogue between state and non-state actors, and India's pivotal role in the Global Partnership on AI, promoting trustworthy, human-centric AI. These international initiatives serve as a precursor, illuminating the multiple facets of AI safety and regulation, thereby shaping a solid foundation for comprehensive AI safety standards such as the ones proposed in Biden's Executive Order.

The convoluted legal and policy challenge of AI regulation is not confined within national frontiers, but promulgates into an extensive international arena. Biden's executive order spells out the legal and policy intricacies of AI safety and security within this global context. This aligns with the collective global effort symbolized by the recent UK AI Safety Summit, proposing a conducive environment for AI regulation, and the United Nations' ongoing initiative to establish an AI governance board. Marking the culmination of these efforts, Biden's executive order underlines a strategic response to the international push for a more regulated AI landscape, thereby reasserting the U.S.'s commitment to lead in response to AI safety and security challenges.

What the Executive Order Entails

President Biden's Executive Order (EO) on AI safety and security primarily revolves around the development and implementation of 'safe, secure, and trustworthy AI'. This key objective is focused on mitigating the risks posed by AI, while also striving to harness its full potential. The EO outlines the need for comprehensive safety and security standards for foundational AI models. This includes a unique requirement for any company that is involved in the development of such models to notify the federal government while also sharing the results of all safety tests conducted, prior to these AI models being released to the public.

Under the same EO, AI developers have been entrusted with significant responsibilities. The mandate for these developers, if they are involved in creating advanced AI systems, includes the full disclosure of safety test results and essential data. The EO also requires them to develop safety standards and tools, establish measures to protect against AI-enabled fraud, and ensure cybersecurity. Further, they are also required to issue a National Security Memorandum highlighting any additional security actions required in relation to the AI systems that they develop.

Lastly, the protection of Americans forms a central theme in the executive order, with specific directives aimed at safeguarding their privacy, equity, and civil rights. In addition to this, the EO stresses upon the need for protecting consumers and workers, promoting innovation and competition, and advancing American leadership globally. However, as the EO signals a commitment towards data privacy, it also recognizes the need for legislative changes and calls for bipartisan data privacy legislation to effectively safeguard Americans' data. This includes a call for increased federal support to develop privacy-preserving AI techniques.

Tools and Measures for AI Safety Assurance

Recognizing the ever-growing capabilities of AI, the executive order stipulates the development of rigorous standards, tools, and tests, aimed at bolstering the safety, security, and trustworthiness of AI systems. Spearheaded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), these comprehensive standards are specifically designed for meticulous red-team testing, to ensure absolute safety before these AI technologies are introduced to the public.

The executive order also takes into account the possible misuse of AI. Laws prohibiting the use of AI in manufacturing dangerous biological materials have been put in place. Additionally, it prioritizes the creation of benchmark standards and effective practices that identify AI-generated content and validate official data. These crucial tools are essential in the fight against misinformation.

Marking another milestone in AI regulation, the order establishes an advanced cybersecurity program. This program intends to build AI tools proficient in detecting and rectifying vulnerabilities in critical software. Given the inherent cybersecurity threats in AI technologies, these mitigation tools are of paramount importance. In parallel, the order pushes for a National Security Memorandum to guide subsequent actions revolving around AI and security. With a comprehensive array of protective measures, the executive order is designed to ensure successful implementation of safe, secure, and trustworthy AI.

Balancing AI Advancements with Civil Rights and Equity

AI's capacity to perpetuate discrimination and bias remains a serious barrier to its universal acceptance. Recognizing the urgent need to address this problem, the Biden Administration has called upon governmental agencies to bolster efforts against algorithmic biases that could negatively impact landlords, federal benefits programs, and federal contractors. This effort underscores the commitment to ensure responsible AI usage which respects civil rights and promotes equity.

In justice and healthcare sectors, the administration seeks fairness and safety. The directive requires the justice Department and federal civil rights offices to develop best practices for addressing civil rights violations linked with AI. This ensures justice prevails as AI aids critical decisions – from sentencing, risk assessments, to predictive policing. A protective shield is also being reinforced in healthcare with the proposed safety program for AI applications. Simultaneously, to assuage the anxieties around AI's effect on employment, the executive order commissions a detailed study of its potential labor market ramifications, reiterating support for the workforce.

On the legislative front, the executive order echoes a bipartisan call to Congress for data privacy legislation, underscoring the importance of robust privacy protections. But the monumental task doesn't end at legislation. Safeguarding civil rights and maintaining equity as we integrate AI into our lives asks us to grapple with complex challenges. Balancing groundbreaking AI advancements with societal values and implementing strategic prevention measures against potential pitfalls becomes a crucial part of the narrative. As we chart our course towards an AI-integrated future, the true test will lie in harnessing the boundless potential of AI, while ensuring safety and trust within its architecture.


President Biden has issued an executive order to establish standards for AI safety and security, addressing the need for comprehensive regulation in the face of growing transformative potential and associated risks of AI. The order outlines the development and implementation of safe and trustworthy AI, requiring companies involved in creating AI models to notify the government and share safety test results. AI developers are also mandated to disclose safety test results, establish measures to protect against fraud and cybersecurity threats, and issue a National Security Memorandum. The order emphasizes the protection of privacy, equity, civil rights, consumers, workers, innovation, competition, and American leadership. It calls for the development of rigorous standards, tools, tests, and an advanced cybersecurity program, while also addressing algorithmic biases and promoting fairness in the justice and healthcare sectors. The order highlights the importance of balancing AI advancements with civil rights and equity, and seeks bipartisan data privacy legislation. Overall, the executive order aims to ensure the safe and responsible integration of AI while maintaining trust and safeguarding societal values.

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