On April 25, 2023, four federal agencies — the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) — released a joint statement on the agencies’ efforts to address discrimination and bias in automated systems. 

The statement applies to “automated systems,” which are broadly defined “to mean software and algorithmic processes” beyond AI.  Although the statement notes the significant benefits that can flow from the use of automated systems, it also cautions against unlawful discrimination that may result from that use. 

The statement starts by summarizing the existing legal authorities that apply to automated systems and each agency’s guidance and statements related to AI.  Helpfully, the statement serves to aggregate links to key AI-related guidance documents from each agency, providing a one-stop-shop for important AI-related publications for all four entities.  For example, the statement summarizes the EEOC’s remit in enforcing federal laws that make it unlawful to discriminate against an applicant or employee and the EEOC’s enforcement activities related to AI, and includes a link to a technical assistance document.  Similarly, the report outlines the FTC’s reports and guidance on AI, and includes multiple links to FTC AI-related documents.

After providing an overview of each agency’s position and links to key documents, the statement then summarizes the following sources of potential discrimination and bias, which could indicate the regulatory and enforcement priorities of these agencies.

  • Data and Datasets:  The statement notes that outcomes generated by automated systems can be skewed by unrepresentative or imbalanced data sets.  The statement says that flawed data sets, along with correlation between data and protected classes, can lead to discriminatory outcomes.
  • Model Opacity and Access:  The statement observes that some automated systems are “black boxes,” meaning that the internal workings of automated systems are not always transparent to people, and thus difficult to oversee.
  • Design and Use:  The statement also notes that flawed assumptions about users may play a role in unfair or biased outcomes.

We will continue to monitor these and related developments across our blogs.

Photo of Jennifer Johnson Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson is a partner specializing in communications, media and technology matters who serves as Co-Chair of Covington’s Technology Industry Group and its global and multi-disciplinary Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) Groups. She represents and advises technology companies, content distributors…

Jennifer Johnson is a partner specializing in communications, media and technology matters who serves as Co-Chair of Covington’s Technology Industry Group and its global and multi-disciplinary Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) Groups. She represents and advises technology companies, content distributors, television companies, trade associations, and other entities on a wide range of media and technology matters. Jennifer has almost three decades of experience advising clients in the communications, media and technology sectors, and has held leadership roles in these practices for almost twenty years. On technology issues, she collaborates with Covington’s global, multi-disciplinary team to assist companies navigating the complex statutory and regulatory constructs surrounding this evolving area, including product counseling and technology transactions related to connected and autonomous vehicles, internet connected devices, artificial intelligence, smart ecosystems, and other IoT products and services. Jennifer serves on the Board of Editors of The Journal of Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & Law.

Jennifer assists clients in developing and pursuing strategic business and policy objectives before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Congress and through transactions and other business arrangements. She regularly advises clients on FCC regulatory matters and advocates frequently before the FCC. Jennifer has extensive experience negotiating content acquisition and distribution agreements for media and technology companies, including program distribution agreements, network affiliation and other program rights agreements, and agreements providing for the aggregation and distribution of content on over-the-top app-based platforms. She also assists investment clients in structuring, evaluating, and pursuing potential investments in media and technology companies.

Photo of Micaela McMurrough Micaela McMurrough

Micaela McMurrough has represented clients in high-stakes antitrust, patent, trade secrets, contract, and securities litigation, and other complex commercial litigation matters, and serves as co-chair of Covington’s global and multi-disciplinary Internet of Things (IoT) group. She also represents and advises domestic and international…

Micaela McMurrough has represented clients in high-stakes antitrust, patent, trade secrets, contract, and securities litigation, and other complex commercial litigation matters, and serves as co-chair of Covington’s global and multi-disciplinary Internet of Things (IoT) group. She also represents and advises domestic and international clients on cybersecurity and data privacy issues, including cybersecurity investigations and cyber incident response. Micaela has advised clients on data breaches and other network intrusions, conducted cybersecurity investigations, and advised clients regarding evolving cybersecurity regulations and cybersecurity norms in the context of international law.

In 2016, Micaela was selected as one of thirteen Madison Policy Forum Military-Business Cybersecurity Fellows. She regularly engages with government, military, and business leaders in the cybersecurity industry in an effort to develop national strategies for complex cyber issues and policy challenges. Micaela previously served as a United States Presidential Leadership Scholar, principally responsible for launching a program to familiarize federal judges with various aspects of the U.S. national security structure and national intelligence community.

Prior to her legal career, Micaela served in the Military Intelligence Branch of the United States Army. She served as Intelligence Officer of a 1,200-member maneuver unit conducting combat operations in Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star.

Photo of Holly Fechner Holly Fechner

Holly Fechner advises clients on complex public policy matters that combine legal and political opportunities and risks. She leads teams that represent companies, entities, and organizations in significant policy and regulatory matters before Congress and the Executive Branch.

She is a co-chair of…

Holly Fechner advises clients on complex public policy matters that combine legal and political opportunities and risks. She leads teams that represent companies, entities, and organizations in significant policy and regulatory matters before Congress and the Executive Branch.

She is a co-chair of the Covington’s Technology Industry Group and a member of the Covington Political Action Committee board of directors.

Holly works with clients to:

  • Develop compelling public policy strategies
  • Research law and draft legislation and policy
  • Draft testimony, comments, fact sheets, letters and other documents
  • Advocate before Congress and the Executive Branch
  • Form and manage coalitions
  • Develop communications strategies

She is the Executive Director of Invent Together and a visiting lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She serves on the board of directors of the American Constitution Society.

Holly served as Policy Director for Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Chief Labor and Pensions Counsel for the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee.

She received The American Lawyer, “Dealmaker of the Year” award. in 2019. The Hill named her a “Top Lobbyist” from 2013 to the present, and she has been ranked by Chambers USA – America’s Leading Business Lawyers from 2012 to the present.

Photo of Jayne Ponder Jayne Ponder

Jayne Ponder is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office and a member of the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Practice Group. Jayne’s practice focuses on a broad range of privacy, data security, and technology issues. She provides ongoing privacy and data protection…

Jayne Ponder is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office and a member of the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Practice Group. Jayne’s practice focuses on a broad range of privacy, data security, and technology issues. She provides ongoing privacy and data protection counsel to companies, including on topics related to privacy policies and data practices, the California Consumer Privacy Act, and cyber and data security incident response and preparedness.

Photo of Libbie Canter Libbie Canter

Libbie Canter represents a wide variety of multinational companies on privacy, cyber security, and technology transaction issues, including helping clients with their most complex privacy challenges and the development of governance frameworks and processes to comply with global privacy laws. She routinely supports…

Libbie Canter represents a wide variety of multinational companies on privacy, cyber security, and technology transaction issues, including helping clients with their most complex privacy challenges and the development of governance frameworks and processes to comply with global privacy laws. She routinely supports clients on their efforts to launch new products and services involving emerging technologies, and she has assisted dozens of clients with their efforts to prepare for and comply with federal and state privacy laws, including the California Consumer Privacy Act and California Privacy Rights Act.

Libbie represents clients across industries, but she also has deep expertise in advising clients in highly-regulated sectors, including financial services and digital health companies. She counsels these companies — and their technology and advertising partners — on how to address legacy regulatory issues and the cutting edge issues that have emerged with industry innovations and data collaborations.

Photo of Carolyn Rashby Carolyn Rashby

Carolyn Rashby provides business-focused advice and counsel to companies navigating the constantly evolving and overlapping maze of federal, state, and local employment requirements. She conducts workplace investigations and cultural assessments, leads audits regarding employee classification, wage and hour, and I-9 compliance, advises on…

Carolyn Rashby provides business-focused advice and counsel to companies navigating the constantly evolving and overlapping maze of federal, state, and local employment requirements. She conducts workplace investigations and cultural assessments, leads audits regarding employee classification, wage and hour, and I-9 compliance, advises on employment issues arising in corporate transactions, and provides strategic counsel to clients on a wide range of workplace matters, including harassment and #MeToo issues, wage and hour, worker classification, employee accommodations, termination decisions, employment agreements, trade secrets, restrictive covenants, employee handbooks, and personnel policies. Her approach is preventive, while recognizing the need to set clients up for the best possible defense should disputes arise.

Photo of Teresa Lewi Teresa Lewi

Teresa Lewi represents and counsels companies on a wide range of federal, state, and local employment laws. She focuses her practice on trade secrets, non-competition, executive compensation, separation, employee mobility, discrimination, workplace privacy, and wage-and-hour issues.

Teresa represents clients in the life sciences…

Teresa Lewi represents and counsels companies on a wide range of federal, state, and local employment laws. She focuses her practice on trade secrets, non-competition, executive compensation, separation, employee mobility, discrimination, workplace privacy, and wage-and-hour issues.

Teresa represents clients in the life sciences, technology, financial services, sports, and entertainment industries. She has successfully tried cases in federal and state courts, and has resolved numerous disputes through alternative dispute resolution methods. In particular, Teresa has helped companies achieve highly favorable outcomes in high-stakes disputes over the protection of trade secrets and enforcement of agreements with employees. In addition, she defends companies against public accommodation and website accessibility claims under federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

Teresa also conducts specialized internal investigations and assessments designed to help companies protect their confidential information and trade secrets from employee misappropriation and cybersecurity incidents.