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Congress confronts security risks as it seeks to expand Hill’s AI use

While the House may adopt broad guardrails for AI usage, management of each office will remain up to individual members and their appetite for innovation, experimentation and risk. Some lawmakers already have ideas for ways to harness it for themselves and their staff.

Rep. Morgan Griffiths (R-Va.) envisions being able to listen to audio versions of reports or bill text on his drive to Washington, he said at the committee hearing. Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) wants to know how AI can help her district staff to wade through overwhelming loads of constituent casework while protecting people’s personal information.

Congressional use of AI is in early stages, but so are major AI programs outside the public sector. The current plans to take advantage of it for lawmakers represent a rare example of Congress adopting a technology while it’s still being honed and developed.

“It does hallucinate,” Clocker said of AI’s inconsistencies. “It is confident, even though it is hallucinating.”

Already, more than 200 staffers in 150 House offices, plus committees, are participating in a pilot program using Chat GPT+ for everyday tasks, such as scheduling, constituent correspondence and bill summaries.

Currently, the most popular use of ChatGPT+ is to produce a first draft of testimony, a statement or a speech, before staffers bring it to its final form — editing the AI version to integrate voice and verve that AI can’t yet achieve.

While the House has been in talks with other generative AI platforms, including Google’s Bard and Microsoft’s Copilot, OpenAI’s ChatGPT is the only company so far that has made a commitment to protect House and member data. That includes commitments to not use that data in training their models or sharing it with other customers.

The CAO’s office is evaluating other providers. But without accepting the House’s terms for data protection, the paid license version of ChatGPT+ is the only House-approved AI provider.

The Senate is not as far along in its experimentation with AI use, though the upper chamber did establish a working group late last year and has issued some guidance to offices involved in pilot efforts. The chamber’s top cybersecurity officials determined that OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s BARD and Microsoft’s Copilot stand a “moderate level of risk if controls are followed.”

For now, Senate officials have limited use of the technology to research and evaluation purposes — and only using non-sensitive data.

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