Tech Policy

Washington has eyes on AI, tech talent, and data sharing

Here’s what the federal government has been up to in the big, wide world of tech.
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Francis Scialabba

· 4 min read

Big Tech fell out of the congressional spotlight last week as artificial intelligence took center stage.

OpenAI and IBM sent representatives to testify before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee about how to regulate AI development, and down the street at the White House, the Biden administration laid out its plan for job creation in fields like semiconductor manufacturing and clean energy. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), meantime, examined data sharing. Here’s our dispatch from last week’s intersection of tech and politics.

AI rulemaking: OpenAI CEO Sam Altman testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law on Tuesday as lawmakers grappled with how to regulate the artificial intelligence industry. Altman endorsed the use of independent audits and suggested a combination of “licensing and testing requirements for development and release of AI models above a threshold of capabilities,” as well as the creation of a new international agency tasked solely with regulating AI. IBM Chief Privacy and Trust Officer Christina Montgomery and scientist Gary Marcus also testified at the hearing.

Nearby, the House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet held a hearing on AI and intellectual property law, where they heard from academics and artists about copyright-protected works being used to train AI models and the overall impact of generative AI on creators.

Back to school: Meanwhile, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on a bipartisan proposal to develop an AI training program for federal supervisors and management officials.

The AI Leadership Training Act, which the committee voted to advance to the full Senate, would “help improve the federal workforce’s understanding of AI applications, and ensure that leaders who oversee the use of these tools understand AI’s potential benefits and risks,” the sponsors said in a statement.

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Mapmaking: The White House laid out a strategy aimed at providing “equitable access” to training for new jobs, such as those the administration expects will be created through legislation like the CHIPS and Science Act, which is aimed at boosting the US semiconductor industry.

The strategy includes investment in “workforce hubs”—partnerships with state and local officials, unions, schools, and others—designed to build a pipeline of qualified workers. The first five hubs include Phoenix, with a focus on “semiconductor manufacturing, optical cable, and critical mineral and battery manufacturing efforts,” and Pittsburgh, focusing on “advanced manufacturing, including robotics and biomanufacturing, as well as clean energy, including batteries.”

Privacy problems: The FTC also had a busy week. On Wednesday, the agency accused ovulation tracking app Premom of allegedly misleading users about the sensitive personal information it shared with third parties, including marketing firm AppsFlyer and Google. Premom’s parent company “failed to take reasonable measures to address the privacy and data security risks created by its use of third-party automated tracking tools known as software development kits,” the agency said.

Later in the week, the FTC issued a warning about the potential risks posed to consumers by biometric information technologies like facial recognition, and the potential that companies promoting this tech could violate the FTC Act.

“Consumers face new and increasing risks associated with the collection and use of biometric information,” the agency said. “For example, using biometric information technologies to identify consumers in certain locations could reveal sensitive personal information about them such as whether they accessed particular types of healthcare, attended religious services, or attended political or union meetings.”

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Tech Brew informs business leaders about the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts and more to help them make smart decisions.