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FTC Demands Truthful AI Claims, Warns of Regulatory Action

 |  June 18, 2024

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is intensifying its scrutiny of companies’ claims about artificial intelligence (AI), with a stern warning that it will hold firms accountable for unsubstantiated promises, per Axios. Samuel Levine, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, emphasized the agency’s commitment to enforcing truthful and substantiated AI claims in a recent interview with Axios.

Levine underscored that all companies, whether AI-specific or those incorporating AI processes, are bound by the same set of rules. “If companies are making claims about their use of AI, or the capabilities of their AI, those claims have to be truthful and substantiated, or we are prepared to bring action,” Levine stated, adding that these were not empty threats.

Regulatory Landscape

According to Axios, Levine suggested that there isn’t an immediate need for a dedicated “Bureau of AI,” given the widespread integration of AI across various sectors, including technology, pharmaceuticals, and retail. This widespread adoption gives the FTC a unique vantage point to monitor AI’s market impact.

“We expect companies to be truthful, and we have the track record to show that we’re prepared to go to court to hold them accountable,” Levine said. He clarified that existing laws and company obligations remain unchanged by the advent of AI, but the FTC is particularly wary of AI being used to “turbocharge” fraudulent activities.

Related: FTC Monitoring Competition In The Artificial Intelligence Field

Legal Framework and Challenges

The FTC Act remains a potent tool for the agency to combat false advertising, discrimination, and other harmful behaviors associated with AI. However, Levine pointed out that additional resources are necessary to enhance the agency’s effectiveness. He highlighted a significant setback from 2021 when the Supreme Court limited the FTC’s ability to secure monetary remedies for consumers.

“Congress giving us back that tool to get money back to people who get scammed, and making sure we have the resources to take on what we fear will be a real scourge of AI-related fraud, is essential to us doing our job,” Levine said.

Recent Enforcement Actions

The FTC’s vigilance over AI-related claims has already led to significant enforcement actions. Last year, Rite Aid was banned from using AI facial recognition technology for five years after the FTC found it had been used without adequate safeguards. Additionally, Automators AI was permanently enjoined for misleading consumers with promises of quick financial gains through its technology.

More recently, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a complaint with the FTC, urging an investigation into hiring technology vendor Aon. The ACLU accused Aon of deceptive marketing by claiming its technology was “bias-free” and could “improve diversity.” While Levine declined to comment specifically on this case, he affirmed the FTC’s readiness to tackle similar issues.

FTC’s Stance on AI Regulation

Levine’s message to the private sector is clear: the FTC will not rely on self-regulation as it did during the early days of Web 2.0. “We are not just closing our eyes and hoping self-regulation is going to protect the public,” he asserted. “We think if AI is going to be deployed successfully … we need to be active.”

Source: Axios