Why Self-Regulation Is Best for Artificial Intelligence

As the Biden Administration seeks to get its arms around the global phenomenon that is artificial intelligence, it should recognize a few realities.  

First, artificial intelligence (AI) is more than an idea whose time has come – it is indelibly written into the fabric of our society. AI has grown from a theoretical, academic concept to an indispensable tool in just about every sector imaginable. It has become ubiquitous and universal, transforming commerce, culture, industry, and individual lives the world over, fostering a new era of innovation. 

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Congress Needs Real Intelligence To Address Artificial Intelligence

In our age of hyper-partisan politics, one area that seems to be attracting notable bipartisan congressional concern, including various potential legislative approaches, is the real-time development and implementation of artificial intelligence.  AI’s reach across many economic sectors and its effect on education, medical research, and national security poses complex legal, social, and moral questions that need to be addressed.

The Senate’s hearings in May clearly demonstrated that Democrats and Republicans were eager to learn more.  As Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) noted, “We could be looking at one of the most significant technological innovations in human history.”  At the other end of the political spectrum, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) clearly agreed with Hawley’s assessment regarding what is at stake.  “The magnitude of the challenge … is substantial.  I’m not sure that we respond quickly and with enough expertise to deal with it.”

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The Ticking Clock on Legally Restricting TikTok

Amidst the growing concern over TikTok’s massive availability in the United States, Congress now is ramping up its public scrutiny of that company, which is owned by China’s ByteDance. That foreign ownership has raised serious concerns regarding whether the company might constitute a national security threat that warrants an outright nationwide ban.

Such a ban, which has been advocated by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, raises First Amendment concerns that the government may not be able to justify under the constitutional strict scrutiny test of the Supreme Court that likely would apply in this case. It is unclear, and at this point unlikely, that a sufficient showing could be made to convince a federal court that the gravity of the national security risk in practice would justify restricting the ability of 150 million Americans to use the app for sending and receiving information.

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TikTok Is China’s Trojan Horse

People are easy to dupe.  Give us something for free and we will open the door to just about anything in return, including our most sensitive family, health, and financial information. 

The ancient Greeks knew something about the human psyche when they built a massive wooden horse and put it outside the enemy gates at Troy.  Unsuspecting Trojans marveled at the gift and ushered it inside unexamined.  Hidden in the horse were the Greek men of war who emerged to sack the city. 

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Invest in Better Digital Privacy Protection Along With Faster Broadband Speeds

Among the key provisions of the trillion-dollar Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (aka the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal) signed into law by President Joe Biden on Monday, Nov. 15, is $65 billion that will be dedicated to improving access to reliable high-speed Internet.  This will include both increased availability of broadband to more than 30 million Americans who do not have minimally acceptable broadband speeds, and assistance in lowering prices for Internet services so that more households can afford better Internet service.

This new law aimed at closing the digital divide also should be used to close the digital privacy divide – the gap between more personal information being stored and shared and the level of privacy protection for online users that is provided to them.

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Attacking Free Speech Doesn’t Just Hurt Tech: America Must Stay True to Its First Amendment Principles

The First Amendment is one of the cornerstone principles that define this nation. There is no such thing as freedom if we cannot speak freely.   

Today, however, our nation seems less interested in protecting free speech than at any time I can recall. Major advocates of free speech like the ACLU are wavering in their support of our First Amendment, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are fighting for the government to censor online speech.  

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A Third-Way Approach to Regulating Facial Recognition Systems

The use of facial recognition systems powered by algorithms and software continues to raise controversy given their potential use by law enforcement and other government agencies.  For over a decade, the Department of Commerce’s National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has evaluated facial recognition to identify and report gaps in its capabilities.  Its most recent report in 2019 quantified the effect of age, race, and sex on facial recognition accuracy.

The greatest discrepancies that NIST measured were higher false-positive rates in women, African Americans, and particularly African American women.  It noted, “False positives might present a security concern to the system owner, as they may allow access to impostors.  False positives also might present privacy and civil rights and civil liberties concerns such as when matches result in additional questioning, surveillance, errors in benefit adjudication, or loss of liberty.”

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Digital COVID Vaccine Passports Should Be Antitrust-Exempt

Our nation’s momentum toward accelerated COVID-19 vaccine distribution is fully apparent.  President Joe Biden has publicly urged state governments to make every adult in the U.S. eligible for a vaccine by May 1.

With this fast-track schedule, increasing attention now should be focused on how Americans will be able to digitally verify their vaccine completion status, not only for travel abroad but possibly even to get into local sporting events, theaters, hotels, or cruise ships.

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How California’s Net Neutrality Law Can Inform Federal Digital Privacy Policymaking

One of the major unresolved issues in crafting comprehensive federal digital privacy legislation has carried over from last year to the current 117th Congress.  This regards whether current or future state privacy laws should be preempted so that there only will be one uniform national set of enforceable rules regarding the collection, storage, and transmission of personally identifiable information.

A one-size-fits-all approach makes intuitive sense since online services and social media are not confined to traditional geographic boundaries.  And absent a fully federal approach, there is the possibility that digital companies will be faced with a crazy-quilt pattern of regulatory compliance, increasing both their potential legal liability and the cost of doing business.  In short, this is a scenario for Plan A.

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Digital Privacy Laws Should Reflect Our Work-From-Home Pandemic Lives

With COVID-19 and economic recovery at the top of the policy agenda for the Biden Administration and the new Congress, it may take awhile until serious attention is devoted to enacting national digital privacy legislation.  This continues to put states in a leadership position to craft their own approaches.  Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Washington are among the states that are in the process of developing their own bills for timely legislative approval.

And Virginia’s pending Consumer Data Protection Act is poised to be signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam, after receiving very strong bipartisan support in both the Virginia House and the state Senate.

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