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Justice Department Beefs up Focus on Artificial Intelligence Enforcement, Warns of Harsher Sentences

Officials are set to warn that companies and people who deliberately misuse AI technology to advance a white-collar crime like price fixing and market manipulation will be at risk for a harsher sentence

The Justice Department is stepping up its focus on artificial intelligence, with officials warning Thursday that companies and people who deliberately misuse the technology to advance a white-collar crime like price fixing, fraud or market manipulation will be at risk for a harsher sentence.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said the Justice Department will take into account how well a company is managing the risks of AI technology each time it assesses a corporate compliance program. Such a program is a set of policies and procedures designed to detect misconduct and to ensure that executives and employees are following the law.

The comments from the Justice Department’s No. 2 leader underscore the extent to which law enforcement officials are concerned about how the rapidly developing technology could be exploited, by foreign adversaries or by corporate criminals, to harm the U.S. The remarks were designed to put business leaders on notice of a legal responsibility to mitigate the risk of advancements in AI.

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Monaco disclosed the policy moves one day after the Justice Department announced charges against a former Google software engineer accused of stealing AI trade secrets from the Mountain View, California-based company while secretly working with two China-based companies.

“All new technologies are a double-edged sword — but AI may be the sharpest blade yet. It holds great promise to improve our lives — but great peril when criminals use it to supercharge their illegal activities, including corporate crime,” Monaco told an American Bar Association conference of white-collar lawyers in San Francisco.

Even as the Justice Department works “to responsibly harness the benefits of AI, we are alert to its risks, and we will be using our tools in new ways to address them,” she said.

Federal prosecutors have long used increased sentences for criminals whose behavior is seen as posing an especially serious risk to victims and the public, and the same principle applies to AI, she said.

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“Where AI is deliberately misused to make a white-collar crime significantly more serious,” Monaco said, “our prosecutors will be seeking stiffer sentences — for individuals and corporate defendants alike.”

“And,” she added, “compliance officers should take note. When our prosecutors assess a company’s compliance program — as they do in all corporate resolutions — they consider how well the program mitigates the company’s most significant risks. And for a growing number of businesses, that now includes the risk of misusing AI.”

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