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Seattle Mayor, Interim CTO Announce Generative AI Policy

The city of Seattle has announced the release of its Generative Artificial Intelligence Policy, which aims to align with the executive order on AI that was signed last week by President Joe Biden.

Seattle skyline
The city of Seattle has officially released its Generative Artificial Intelligence Policy.

This announcement follows several recent actions by the federal government, including President Joe Biden signing an executive order on AI, and the Office of Management and Budget releasing implementation guidance. And while the federal government charges forward, state and local governments are making their own advances in the space of AI regulation.

Seattle’s policy, released Nov. 3, aims to align with the executive order and help position the city to advance AI innovation while prioritizing safety and security.

“Now is the time to ensure this new tool is used for good, creating new opportunities and efficiencies rather than reinforcing existing biases or inequities,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell in an announcement.

Harrell argued that Seattle’s responsibility is to embrace new technology that can help improve service delivery while prioritizing communities and their privacy.

Harrell explained that this policy is the outcome of One Seattle, the city’s approach to cross-sector collaboration. The One Seattle plan aims to guide decision-making and policy development to address challenges including racial equity, housing costs, climate change and more. The city’s Generative AI Advisory Team and city employees collaborated over the course of six months to develop comprehensive policy recommendations in August 2023.

The newly released policy itself was written by Seattle’s interim Chief Technology Officer Jim Loter, based on that group’s work. The governing principles include innovation and sustainability; transparency and accountability; validity and reliability; bias and harm reduction and fairness; privacy enhancing; explainability and interpretability; and security and resiliency.

The new policy touches on many aspects of generative AI, highlighting key factors of responsible use for a municipality. This includes attributing AI-generated work, having an employee review AI work and limiting the use of personal information to develop AI products.

The policy also stipulates that any work with a third-party vendor must include these principles for AI to address current and potential future risks while the city fulfills legal commitments about data use.

City employees that use AI technology tools must be compliant with the city’s commitments. Any AI tech uses will have to go through the same review process as other new technologies to ensure privacy, compliance and security.

“Technology is always changing,” Loter said in the announcement. “Our responses to these changes prove we are open to embracing new ways of providing services to our communities, while also mindful of the data we need to protect.”

The city policy applies to generative AI, which produces new content for user requests by learning from large amounts of data. The policy can be found on the city’s website.