MFIA Research Fuels New Connecticut Law Regulating State Use of Algorithms 

Hartford Capitol

Today, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed a landmark law that will bring transparency and accountability to state government use of artificial intelligence and automated decision-making tools. In collaboration with the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic (MFIA) at Yale Law School provided key research for the bill, S.B. 1103. The bill received unanimous support from both chambers of the state legislature.

Last year, MFIA published a report illustrating how state agencies in Connecticut have begun using AI and other automated systems to make critical decisions affecting residents’ lives. As MFIA’s research uncovered, such algorithmic decision making is opaque to the public, which are not told whether AI tools have been properly and equitably developed, nor how they are being used. The report sounded the alarm about the perils of black box government decision-making, which can include hidden bias and have racially disparate impacts. The report further documented the clinic’s largely unsuccessful efforts to obtain information from three major state agencies about their use of algorithms, documenting the need for greater transparency into these tools. 

READ THE REPORT: Algorithmic Accountability

“Connecticut agencies are using AI and algorithms in ways neither the public nor the agencies themselves fully understand,” said Kelsey Eberly, Clinical Lecturer and Abrams Fellow at the MFIA Clinic. “When that happens, we don’t know why certain children find seats at magnet schools, certain job seekers’ applications filter to the top, or certain families are flagged for child welfare visits – decisions far too weighty to be made by black box technology. This legislation brings much-needed ‘sunshine.’” 

The MFIA report and policy solutions the clinic proposed were a significant catalyst for the legislative conversation, laying the groundwork for the clinic’s participation in advising on the draft legislation over the past year, according to lawmakers. The bill was developed by the legislature’s Privacy Working Group and championed by principal sponsor Sen. James Maroney of Milford, co-chair of the General Law Committee. 

Clinic students advised Maroney and the working group on approaches other states and countries have taken in regulating government use of algorithms, in particular providing detailed research on Vermont's new AI law. 

In February, MFIA student Danny Haidar ’24 testified in support of the bill before the General Law Committee. “During the hearing, the senators on that committee took a deep interest in our research and recommendations, which is well reflected in the bill,” said Haidar. “This achievement is a shining example of the pipeline between theory, litigation, and policy that MFIA has built.”

The bill’s signing puts Connecticut in the vanguard as one of a handful of states to enact regulatory controls of state agency use of AI. The new law overhauls Connecticut’s use of algorithms by compelling a public inventory of AI tools in use by state agencies, requiring impact assessments before such tools are developed, purchased, and implemented, and developing policies to guide the equitable, accountable, and transparent procurement and use of AI. 

The Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School is a law school clinic dedicated to increasing government transparency, defending the essential work of news gatherers, and protecting freedom of expression by providing pro bono legal services, pursuing impact litigation and developing policy initiatives. The clinic is a program of the Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression and Information Society Project.