Congress pushes to craft AI privacy rules as industry races ahead

A House panel will begin a series of hearings on the role of artificial intelligence (AI) technology on Wednesday as the expanding industry leaves lawmakers scrambling to consider regulations.

As companies roll out more AI tools for commercial use, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Wednesday will focus on concerns around how AI systems collect and use data. use data.

Lawmakers will hear from a variety of experts and witnesses affected by the rise of AI, including former Federal Trade Commission (FCC) Chairman Jon Leibowitz and SAG-AFTRA members Clark Gregg, an actor known for playing Phil Coulson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. .

Amba Kak, executive director of the AI ​​Now Institute, an AI research nonprofit, said lawmakers should be aware of existing regulatory tools and frameworks to address risks.

“In this time of hype there is a tendency to think that we are operating from a blank slate. In fact, we already have many of the management tools needed to effectively manage and regulate AI,” Kak said.

“The notion that somehow we need to undo years of regulation and policy thinking and create new frameworks from scratch really only serves the biggest players in the industry more is to serve the rest of us, because it has a delaying effect and gives these participants really significant effects. on the scope and direction of policy making,” Kak added.

New push for data privacy bill

In testimony prepared for tomorrow, Kak will recommend prioritizing data privacy — especially through “robust, legally enforceable data minimization mandates,” e.g. as required by the US Data Privacy Protection Act (ADPPA).

ADPPA left the House Energy and Commerce Committee last year with bipartisan support. It received support from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), then ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, but was not given a price increase by Senate Commerce Chairman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) did not support it. .

The bill would set national standards for how technology companies collect and use consumer data. It will also give users the ability to sue for violations of the law through a private right of action.

Victoria Espinel, president and CEO of BSA Software Alliance, will also call on the committee to advance a comprehensive privacy bill that would require businesses to collect, use and share data in a way that respects consumer privacy, giving consumers the right to access and delete their data, while ensuring companies that violate the rules are subject to strong sanctions. enforcement.

“The remarkable development of AI has highlighted the importance of these issues. As this Committee has recognized, federal privacy laws will impose important new requirements on companies that collect and use consumer information, including information related to AI,” Espinel will say, according to excerpts from her opening statement.

Kak said countries with data privacy laws have been able to “act very quickly” to address privacy concerns following the widespread release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT and other large-scale AI systems.

“I think, in stark contrast, while enforcement agencies are doing all they can using existing authorities and fairly limited resources in the United States, on the contrary, The United States is again limited in its ability to respond similarly to this moment without such a mechanism. law,” Kak said.

How governments approach AI rules

As the House Energy and Commerce Committee begins its series of hearings, other work on AI is also taking place across the government. The committee will also hold other hearings on the role of AI across “all sectors of the economy,” according to a statement.

And even at the same time on Wednesday, a separate hearing is being held in the House Science, Space and Technology Committee to consider risk management strategies for AI.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DY) hosted an AI forum in September, bringing together technology leaders to discuss the risks and benefits of AI with senators.

Several AI regulatory proposals in the Senate have emerged that address different areas of AI risk. For example, a bipartisan proposal introduced last week aims to protect portraits of actors, singers and other performers from synthetic AI technology.

Another bipartisan proposal announced in September by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) would create a framework for AI regulation, including requiring AI companies must apply for a license.

A coalition of civil society and advocacy groups, including the Center for Democracy and Technology, the NAACP and the ACLU, sent a letter to lawmakers Tuesday urging them to consider civil rights risks AI-induced dislocation, especially for marginalized groups.

“For the United States to become a true global leader in AI, it must lead the way in responsible and rights-respecting innovation that directly addresses these countless harms. We hope and expect that AI Insights Forums, Congressional hearings, and future legislation will focus on these issues and draw on society’s expertise. civil society as well as the communities most affected by these technologies,” they wrote.

At the same time, the Biden administration is also making moves on AI. The Biden administration has secured voluntary commitments to manage the risks posed by AI from leading companies in the field, including OpenAI, Microsoft and Google.

President Biden also said last month that he would take executive action on AI to ensure American leadership in the field.

A coalition of House and Senate Democrats sent a letter to Biden last week asking him to turn nonbinding AI protections enacted by the White House into policy through a executive order.

Kak said there is now an opportunity for lawmakers and regulators to act before AI systems “are entrenched in a particular trajectory.”

“Now is the time to emphasize that nothing about the current technological path is inevitable and we need strong data privacy laws and a strong competition framework to… ensure that the trajectory of AI technology shaped for the public good.” and not just by a handful of corporate actors that will ultimately be driven solely by commercial incentives,” Kak added.

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