On 30 October, President Biden issued an Executive Order, which sets out a strategy to drive safe, secure and trustworthy artificial intelligence (AI). 

The strategy is designed to ensure that the US remains at the forefront of AI innovation, whilst still appropriately managing AI risk to US citizens. It mandates actions for over twenty federal agencies and stakeholders intended to create standards and regulations for the oversight of AI, alongside protecting the civil rights of US citizens. In particular, the Department of Commerce will play a key role in implementing the Order. Here we summarise the order. 

New Safety and Security Standards

Standards are being developed by federal agencies to require developers of AI systems to share their safety test results and other critical information with the US government. Developers of AI systems that pose serious risks must notify the federal government when training the model. They must also share the results of all red-team safety tests. 

The federal agencies involved in developing and applying these standards include:

  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will establish rigorous standards for red-teaming required before an AI system is publicly released.
  • The Department of Homeland Security will apply NIST’s standards to critical infrastructure sectors and establish the AI Safety and Security Board.
  • Alongside the Department of Energy, the Department of Homeland Security will also address AI systems’ threats to critical infrastructure, as well as chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and cybersecurity risks.
  • The Department of Commerce will develop guidance in regard to recognising AI-generated content. Federal agencies will utilise these tools to indicate to US citizens that governmental communications are authentic. 
  • The National Security Council and White House Chief of Staff will develop a National Security Memorandum that directs further actions on AI and security, especially for the US military.

Additional Actions

The Order also sets out several other key priorities, alongside the actions required to achieve them. 

  • Protecting Americans' Privacy. The Order recognises the risks that AI can pose to personal privacy and calls on Congress to pass bipartisan data privacy legislation to deploy better protections . It aims to ensure that the collection, use and retention of data promotes privacy. It directs federal support for the development of privacy-preserving techniques and technologies. It also directs action to develop guidance for federal agencies to account for AI risks and the effectiveness of privacy-preserving techniques.
  • Advancing Equity and Civil Rights. The Order recognises irresponsible use of AI can undermine equity and civil rights; especially in relation to algorithmic discrimination. Required actions include providing clear guidance to Landlords, Federal benefits programs and federal contractors in order to keep AI systems from being used to exacerbate discrimination. The Order directs the development of best practice use of AI in regard to both civil rights offences (which should be coordinated between the Department of Justice and Federal civil rights offices) and the criminal justice system.
  • Standing Up for Consumers, Patients and Students. The Order recognises both the risk and benefit to consumers implicit in AI. It directs the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a safety program to receive reports of harms or unsafe healthcare practices involving AI. Resources should be created to support the potential of AI in education.
  • Supporting American Workers. Recognising the changes that AI is making to the American workplace, the Order directs the development of principles and best practices regarding the possible displacement of workers, labour standards, data collection and health and safety. These should maximise the benefit and minimise the harm of AI for workers. The Order requires a report on AI’s potential impacts on the labour market. 
  • Promote American Innovation and Competition. In line with America’s leading position in AI innovation, the Order intends to retain this leadership through catalysing research across the US by piloting a National AI Research, providing small AI developers and entrepreneurs access to technical resources. It encourages the Federal Trade Commission to exercise authority here. The Order directs authorities to attract and retain immigrants and non-immigrants highly skilled in AI through modernising immigration programmes. 
  • Advancing American Leadership Abroad. The Order emphasises that the Biden-Harris Administration will continue to collaborate with international partners in order to promote the safe, secure and responsible use of AI worldwide. It directs the expansion of stakeholder engagements for collaborate on this, which will be led by the Department of Commerce
  • Ensuring Responsible and Effective Government Use of AI. The Order indicates that AI can pose risks to Federal AI infrastructure and government systems. To this end, the Order directs the issuance of guidance for agencies’ use of AI in order to enhance clarity around safety, as well as assisting agencies acquire AI products and services more quickly. In order to further develop AI understanding and knowledge, accelerate the rapid hiring of AI professionals; this will be led by the Office of Personnel Management, US Digital Service, US Digital Corps, and Presidential Innovation Fellowship


The Order came only a few days before the UK AI Safety Summit, (the implications of which we discuss here), during which US Vice President Kamala Harris urged international governments to rapidly develop their AI regulation and legislation. In particular, she emphasised the transformative power of AI and the need to ensure tech companies are operating within safe boundaries. This is all part of wider debates within the US, at federal and state level, to regulate AI (for example: A bi-partisan US AI Act?).

If you have any questions or would otherwise like to discuss any issues raised in this article, please contact David VarneyTom Whittaker or any other member in our Technology team.

This article was written by Victoria McCarron