The Board of Supervisors for Santa Cruz, Calif., has adopted a new Artificial Intelligence Appropriate Use policy, which will create a framework to address concerns related to the technology among county employees.

The policy, which was unanimously adopted, allows and encourages the continued use of artificial intelligence in county operations while providing guidelines to avoid misuse and the sharing of sensitive information, and to continue to center human judgment in core decisions related to local government operations. The county noted that the policy also includes definitions and usage guidance. The county also said that it plans to treat the policy as a living document and said it will undergo regular reviews and updates to stay current with technological and ethical developments.

In its new AI policy, Santa Cruz addresses issues, including:

  • Data Privacy and Security: Staff must comply with all data privacy and security standards, including protecting personally identifiable information and protected health information.
  • Informed Consent: Members of the public should be informed when they are interacting with an AI tool and have an “opt-out” alternative.
  • Responsible Use: AI tools and systems shall only be used ethically.
  • Avoiding Bias: AI practices should be monitored for bias and regularly reviewed to ensure fairness and accuracy.
  • Decision Making: AI tools should not be used to make impactful decisions.
  • Accountability: Employees are solely responsible for ensuring the quality, accuracy, and regulatory compliance of all AI-generated content utilized in the scope of employment.

To develop the guidelines, the Board of Supervisors turned to an internal policy committee consisting of staff from the Information Services, Personnel, County Counsel, and the County Administrative Office. Additionally, a 12-member “AI Early Adopters Workgroup” representing six departments and interested technology sector community stakeholders provided feedback that informed the development of the policy.

The county said it plans to formally roll out the new policy this month. Over the next six months, the county will monitor usage, collect feedback, and issue updates to the policy in accordance with board direction, before reporting back to the board in March 2024.

In addition to the policy guide, the AI committee will also develop procurement guidance for AI systems, identify county software systems that embed AI technologies, as well as understand how AI-related risks are addressed by vendors, identify AI training opportunities for staff, and identify opportunities where AI can improve county services.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs