Connecticut needs safeguards on state government’s use of artificial intelligence including algorithms at child welfare and other agencies to prevent discrimination and increase transparency, an advisory panel to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said Thursday.
The Connecticut Advisory Committee to the federal commission called on state lawmakers to pass laws regulating such systems, which have sparked concerns in other parts of the country.
The problem, critics say, is algorithms can use flawed data that can disproportionately identify minorities, low-income families, disabled people and other groups when agencies make decisions on removing children from homes, approving health, housing and other benefits, where to concentrate law enforcement and assigning children to schools, among other uses.
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“The state of Connecticut makes thousands of decisions that impact the lives and civil rights of residents every day,” said David McGuire, chair of the Connecticut Advisory Committee. “When the state uses an algorithm residents should know which agency is using the algorithm, the reason it is being used, and assurances that the algorithm is fair.”
The committee did not identify any specific instances of discrimination and bias in Connecticut’s use of algorithms, but said it would release a more comprehensive report within the next few months. The panel also pointed to a study that said some Connecticut agencies did not release full information on their use of algorithms when asked under public records laws.
Concerns about such use of artificial intelligence, or AI, led the Biden administration in October to issue its Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights urging government action to safeguard digital and civil rights.
An investigation by The Associated Press last year revealed bias and transparency problems in the increasing use of algorithms within the country’s child welfare system.
McGuire said the Connecticut panel’s review of the issue is the first by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights or any of its 56 advisory committees. The commission was established by the Civil Rights Act of 1957 as an independent, bipartisan federal fact-finding agency.
Supporters of using algorithms say they make government systems more thorough and efficient through the use of data.
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