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


U.S. President Joe Biden
Image Credits: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Pool / Getty Images

U.S. President Joe Biden has issued an executive order (EO) that seeks to establish “new standards” for AI safety and security, including requirements for companies developing foundation AI models to notify the federal government and share results of all safety tests before they’re deployed to the public.

The fast-moving generative AI movement, driven by the likes of ChatGPT and foundation AI models developed by OpenAI, has sparked a global debate around the need for guardrails to counter the potential pitfalls of giving over too much control to algorithms. Back in May, G7 leaders identified key themes that need to be addressed as part of the so-called Hiroshima AI Process, with the seven constituent countries today reaching an agreement on guiding principles and a “voluntary” code of conduct for AI developers to follow.

Last week, the United Nations (UN) announced a new board to explore AI governance, while the U.K. is this week hosting its global summit on AI governance at Bletchley Park, with U.S. vice president Kamala Harris set to speak at the event.

The Biden-Harris Administration, for its part, has also been focusing on AI safety in lieu of anything legally binding, securing “voluntary commitments” from the major AI developers including OpenAI, Google, Microsoft, Meta and Amazon — this was always intended as a prelude to an executive order, though, which is what is being announced today.

“Safe, secure, and trustworthy AI”

Specifically, the order sets out that developers of the “most powerful AI systems” must share their safety test results and related data with the U.S. government.

“As AI’s capabilities grow, so do its implications for Americans’ safety and security,” the order notes, adding that it’s intended to “protect Americans from the potential risks of AI systems.”

Aligning the new AI safety and security standards with the Defense Production Act (1950), the order specifically targets any foundation model that might pose a risk to national security, economic security or public health — which, while somewhat open to interpretation, should cover just about any foundation model that comes to fruition.

“These measures will ensure AI systems are safe, secure, and trustworthy before companies make them public,” the order adds.

Elsewhere, the order also outlines plans to develop various new tools and systems to ensure that AI is safe and trustworthy, with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) tasked with developing new standards “for extensive red-team testing” prior to release. Such tests will be applied across the board, with the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security addressing risks involved with AI and critical infrastructure, for example.

The order also serves to underpin a number of new directives and standards, including — but not limited to — protecting against the risks of using AI to engineer dangerous biological materials; protecting against AI-powered fraud and deception; and establishing a cybersecurity program to build AI tools for addressing vulnerabilities in critical software.


It’s worth noting that the order does address areas such as equity and civil rights, pointing to how AI can exacerbate discrimination and bias in healthcare, justice and housing, as well as the dangers that AI poses in relation to things like workplace surveillance and job displacement. But some might interpret the order as lacking real teeth, as much of it seems to be centered around recommendations and guidelines — for instance, it says that it wants to ensure fairness in the criminal justice system by “developing best practices on the use of AI in sentencing, parole and probation, pretrial release and detention, risk assessments, surveillance, crime forecasting and predictive policing, and forensic analysis.”

And while the executive order goes some way toward codifying how AI developers should go about building safety and security into their systems, it’s not clear to what extent it’s enforceable without further legislative changes. For example, the order discusses concerns around data privacy — after all, AI makes it infinitely more easy to extract and exploit individuals’ private data at scale, something that developers might be incentivized to do as part of their model training processes. However, the executive order merely calls on Congress to pass “bipartisan data privacy legislation” to protect Americans’ data, including requesting more federal support to develop privacy-preserving AI development techniques.

With Europe on the cusp of passing the first extensive AI regulations, it’s clear that the rest of the world is also grappling with ways to contain what is set to create one of the greatest societal disruptions since the industrial revolution. How impactful President Biden’s executive order proves to be in reeling in the likes of OpenAI, Google, Microsoft and Meta remains to be seen.

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

17 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

19 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android