The NCSL Blog


By Noah Harrison

Artificial intelligence (AI), or the development and use of computers to perform tasks that traditionally require human intelligence, is growing across all sectors of daily life.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology facial recognition researcher Joy Buolamwini on Feb. 13, 2019, at the school, in Cambridge, Mass. Her research has uncovered racial and gender bias in facial analysis tools sold by companies such as Amazon that have a hard time recognizing certain faces, especially darker-skinned women. Buolamwini holds a white mask she had to use so that software could detect her face. (Photo: Steven Senne, AP)AI is becoming especially widespread in the workplace, where it enhances employee training, automates menial tasks and boosts worker productivity.

Recently, AI has been taking a more prominent role in the hiring process, as well. AI technology can help employers write job descriptions in a way that attracts desired candidates, screen the initial applicant pool to identify top candidates and analyze body language during interviews.

AI can assist applicants in the hiring process by using programmed chatbots to promptly answer questions and automatically update candidates on their application status. Some employers hope AI can help increase diversity in the workplace by widening the applicant pool and reducing unconscious biases.

However, others are concerned that using AI to increase diversity could backfire, pointing to examples where AI algorithms demonstrated preferences for male applicants and those with lighter skin. Still, AI proponents claim it can correct its own biases, provided human programmers are monitoring the algorithms for such biases.

Given the increasing prominence of AI in hiring, some states are beginning to explore regulations of its usage. Illinois became the first state to pass such a measure with the Artificial Intelligence Video Intelligence Act (HB 2557), which unanimously passed the legislature in May and was signed into law earlier this month.

The bill concerns the use of AI to evaluate video-recorded interviews. The interview recordings are typically reviewed by AI programs to analyze the interviewee’s answers and body language. Illinois’s bill requires employers wishing to use AI in this way to first notify candidates and obtain their consent. Employers must also explain “how the artificial intelligence [used] works” and what “general types of characteristics it uses to evaluate” candidates. Employers are prohibited from sharing the video and are required to delete all copies within 30 days if requested by the applicant.

The legislation creates guidelines for recruiters using AI but also may leave several areas open for interpretation. “Artificial intelligence” is left undefined, possibly creating questions as to which technologies are covered under the act. The bill also does not detail how employers are to explain how any AI used works, largely leaving it somewhat uncertain what degree of specificity applicants are owed when being told about the AI used in their interviews.

These ambiguities exist because of the dynamic, fast-evolving nature of AI and lack of previous legislation for Illinois to build upon. The bill solidifies Illinois’s status as a pioneer in the regulation of advanced technology in the workplace—the state was also the first to regulate an employer’s use of employees’ biometric data back in 2008. Texas and Washington have since followed suit.

Noah Harrison is a policy intern in NCSL's  Employment, Labor, and Retirement Program.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.