WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation that would ensure American consumers are not being unfairly discriminated against by black box algorithms. As companies are increasingly using complex algorithms to make decisions about opportunities for education, employment, housing, health care, and more, the Algorithmic Fairness Act would direct the Federal Trade Commission to prevent companies from acting on algorithmic eligibility determinations that are deemed unfair because they are biased or use incorrect data.  

“Artificial intelligence brings real benefits to society and opens exciting possibilities. However, it also comes with risks,” said Senator Coons. “Companies are increasingly using algorithms to make decisions about who gets a job or a promotion, who gets into a certain school, or who gets a loan. If these decisions are being made by artificial intelligence that is using unfair, biased, or incorrect data, it has an outsized impact on people’s lives. Existing civil rights laws may not be capturing these harms, and it is critical that Congress establish a framework to ensure that the United States’ transition into the digital economy is rooted in ethics and our values. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and other stakeholders going forward to tackle this complex and pressing problem.”

The Algorithmic Fairness Act would:

  • Require the FTC to conduct a study about the ways companies are developing and implementing algorithmic eligibility determinations
  • Direct the FTC to use its Section 5 authority to prevent companies from acting on algorithmic eligibility determinations that are deemed unfair under the FTC’s unfairness standard
  • Require companies to create an audit trail for each algorithmic eligibility determination it makes about a consumer, preserving records about the data and methodology used to make the determination, how the algorithm was created and trained, and the ultimate decision rendered
  • Require companies to notify consumers when they have been the subject of an algorithmic eligibility determination and provide the consumer with the information the company used to make such a determination and an opportunity to correct the data that the company used
  • Establish research funding and a leadership program rewarding fair, accountable, and transparent examples of data analytics

Bill text is available here.