Bill to Regulate Algorithm Bias Dies in Senate

Published On: August 31, 2021

Legislation aiming to eliminate algorithm bias in state IT systems has died in the State Senate. 

AB 13 by Assemblymember Ed Chau passed in the Assembly on June 1, 2021 and has been amended multiple times before it was placed on suspense last week. 

Introduced in December 2020, AB 13, also known as The Systems Accountability Act, sought to eliminate bias within automated decision systems that serve the public.

“If thoughtfully designed and implemented, algorithm-driven decision systems can assist government by improving operations and in the delivery of services,” said Assemblymember Ed Chau. “However, government also has the responsibility to ensure these systems do not harm the legal rights, health and well-being of individuals. It is therefore necessary to establish criteria for the procurement of high-risk algorithms to minimize the risk of discriminatory impacts resulting from their design and application.”

AB 13 would require the Department of Technology to establish public guidelines that identify high-risk automated decision systems as defined by the measure and to submit a report to the Legislature within two years of passage, repeating the process every two years.  The original date for the first report was set for July 31, 2023, with follow-up reports set for 2025 and 2027. 

The report would specify each high-risk automated decision system, how it functions, whether it poses any risks to privacy or security of personal information, and whether it poses any potentially discriminatory impacts on the basis of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. 

Opponents of the bill cited changing definitions of what constituted an ADS and said the reporting requirement for vendors would negatively impact the state’s procurement process.

About the Author: Will Keys

Will Keys writes about technology issues for the GovReport. He is a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be reached at will at govreport.org