Democratic lawmakers in the Senate and House have reintroduced legislation that aims to bring renewed transparency and oversight to software, algorithms, and other automated systems used to make critical decisions that impact nearly every aspect of American life, and to guard against bias in the creation and use of those technologies.

The Senate version of the Algorithmic Accountability Act of 2022 is being offered by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., and in the House by Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y.

The 2022 version of the bill would require private companies to assess the impacts of automated systems, ensure transparency, and empower consumers to make informed critical decisions.

The latest version of the legislation features several updates on the previous version of the bill, which did not progress past the committee level.

“If someone decides not to rent you a house because of the color of your skin, that’s flat-out illegal discrimination. Using a flawed algorithm or software that results in discrimination and bias is just as bad. Our bill will pull back the curtain on the secret algorithms that can decide whether Americans get to see a doctor, rent a house, or get into a school,” Sen. Wyden said in a press release.

The legislation would require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create regulations to provide structured guidelines for assessment and reporting. It also would require the FTC to publish an annual anonymized report on trends, and establish a repository of information for consumers and advocates.

“As algorithms and other automated decision systems take on increasingly prominent roles in our lives, we have a responsibility to [adequately assess these systems] for biases that may disadvantage minority or marginalized communities,” said Sen. Booker in a press release. “This is why I am proud to reintroduce this legislation and create the transparency needed to prevent unwanted disparities and to hold bad actors accountable.”

“With our renewed Algorithmic Accountability Act, large companies will no longer be able to turn a blind eye towards the impact of their automated systems, intended or not. We must ensure that our 21st Century technologies become tools of empowerment, rather than marginalization and seclusion,” said Rep. Clarke in a press release.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.