Justice Department developing privacy policy for AI

Justice is working through a draft policy involving privacy and the department's use of AI technologies and "the considerations around using it."
Brian Merrick, State Department
Brian Merrick speaks Jan. 14, 2020, at the Data Cloud Summit presented by Cloudera and produced by FedScoop. (Scoop News Group)

The Department of Justice is in the process of developing a draft policy concerning privacy and the use of artificial intelligence, a top department IT official said Tuesday.

Brian Merrick, deputy director of solutions delivery staff for Justice, said during a webinar event the department’s Office of the Chief Information Officer is working through a draft policy involving privacy and the department’s application of AI technologies and “the considerations around using it.”

Privacy — as well as things like diversity, equity and inclusion — is “an active ongoing conversation that we make sure we circulate into any of the new emerging tech efforts so we’ve got the right controls in place, we’ve got the right equity holders involved and engaged fully, so that we make sure that we’re meeting all those requirements going forward, because obviously, being Department of Justice, we are highly focused on making sure that we follow those requirements,” Merrick said during the Federal News Network event.

While he couldn’t comment on when or if the draft policy might be made public, Merrick did say the AI privacy policy would be focused “in general [on] governing how we use the technology. But there will be certainly some intersections, I think, with the public interest, and when appropriate, we’ll make sure that the public interest is satisfied and all of our notification requirements.”


Interest in AI has exploded in recent months with the widespread introduction new capabilities like generative AI, and many federal agencies have begun exploring how they can take advantage of the emerging technology.

FedScoop recently spoke with Melinda Rogers, DOJ chief information officer, in an exclusive interview, during which she shared the department’s plans to use generative AI to improve customer experience for its IT service desk program.

In December 2020, the department issued an artificial intelligence strategy focused on
“cultivating an AI-ready workforce, aligning activities with the DOJ Data Strategy, building a governance structure, and supporting Department-wide AI adoption—with implementation designed to adapt to the evolving technology landscape.”

Merrick said the DOJ has “several AI efforts that are in play right now” including in the law enforcement community and for the legal community, particularly around “enhanced search options … [and] managing documents.”

“It’s a huge requirement for us as we’re one of the largest law firms, I guess, you would say,” he said.


Internally, Justice’s IT division is also using AI tools “with our own datasets that we manage to be able to glean those insights and help us expedite some of our processing,” Merrick said.

On the generative AI front, Merrick said “everyone is grappling with a completely different animal.”

“And so that’s gonna require a much more concerted effort as we really review policy with the rest of the world, frankly, and make sure that we’ve got our policy aligned with use cases and fully understand how that technology works,” he said. “So we’re still a bit off on that. But we’re starting to explore the possibilities and see what that looks like in the future.”

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