April 22, 2024


Unlimited Technology

White House, lawmakers brainstorm AI ground rules

With help from Steven Overly and Emily Birnbaum

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Trust me: Lawmakers and White House officials are seeking ways to ensure that artificial intelligence tools are used responsibly and ethically.

— Digitax deadline: Negotiators are working to roll back some countries’ digital services taxes before U.S. retaliatory tariffs take effect.

— Long game: Both Apple and Google made moves over the long weekend in their respective antitrust suits with Epic Games.

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SPOTLIGHTING THE RESPONSIBLE USE OF AI — Lawmakers and the Biden administration are turning their attention toward ensuring the ethical use of artificial intelligence systems, amid concerns over AI-powered tools such as police use of facial recognition software.

— On the Hill: The House Financial Services Committee’s task force on artificial intelligence meets Wednesday to examine the benefits, harms and ethical risks of AI technology. These tools have drawn criticism for causing unintended consequences — for example, perpetuating discrimination because racial and gender-based biases were unintentionally coded into their algorithms. That’s been a serious concern in the financial services sector, where mortgage-approval algorithms have been found to be more likely to reject people of color than white people with similar financial characteristics.

International leaders, policymakers, advocacy groups and think tanks have considered drafting frameworks for responsible AI, and it’s a topic the EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council also plans to tackle.

— In the White House: The Office of Science and Technology Policy announced Friday that it would develop a “bill of rights” to protect against harmful consequences of artificial intelligence, such as facial recognition tools that lead to disproportionately high arrests of minorities or hiring tools that disadvantage minority applicants.

“Americans have a right to expect better,” OSTP Director Eric Lander and Alondra Nelson, deputy director for science and society, wrote in a Wired op-ed. “Powerful technologies should be required to respect our democratic values and abide by the central tenet that everyone should be treated fairly. Codifying these ideas can help ensure that.”

As part of that effort, OSTP said it was putting out a public request for information related to biometric technologies, such as facial recognition, voice analysis and heart rate tracking tools.

RESOLUTIONS FOR DIGITAL TAX DISPUTES ON THE WAY, TREASURY SAYS — The global minimum tax agreement that the Biden administration helped broker is meant to prevent countries from imposing digital services taxes that tech industry groups had strongly opposed. But what about the countries that already have so-called DSTs? Senior Treasury officials told reporters Monday that plans to roll those back will need to be worked out in the coming weeks.

Negotiators are running up against a deadline. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is slated to impose retaliatory tariffs on Austria, India, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom starting in late November. Those duties were first announced in June but were suspended for 180 days amid the international dealmaking to overhaul corporate taxes. Separate retaliatory duties against France were suspended indefinitely in January before President Joe Biden took office. The Treasury Department and USTR are working to settle the disputes before those tariffs take effect, the officials said Monday.

— OECD recap: On Friday, 136 countries signed onto a plan to overhaul how corporations are taxed around the world by 2023, POLITICO’s Bjarke Smith-Meyer and Mark Scott report. The deal was negotiated through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and won the support of key U.S. trading partners, including China, India and the European Union.

— What’s next: The agreement is expected to get the endorsement of the G-20 finance ministers this week and then the approval of the G-20 leaders at the end of the month. Biden is scheduled to travel to Rome for the latter gathering.

AN EPIC LONG WEEKEND — Epic Games’ antitrust suits are likely far from over. Recent filings by Apple and Google in their respective cases offer a window into the next bout between tech titans and the “Fortnite” game developer.

— Apple’s appeal: The iPhone-maker on Friday filed a notice of appeal in Epic’s antitrust suit and asked the court to stay an injunction that would allow third-party developers to include links to outside payment methods until the appeals process is completed. (Both Epic and Apple are appealing September’s verdict, so the case could ultimately take years to wrap up.)

One reason: “Links and buttons to alternate payment mechanisms are fraught with risk,” Apple wrote, saying such links could even take users to malicious sites and could compromise their personal data. The company said it would be “irreparably harmed” if the court did not issue a stay. Apple’s in-app payment process, it added, protects against fraudulent transactions and duplicate purchases. “These features enhance the overall user experience, the security of a user’s purchase, as well as the integrity of the platform as a whole,” it said.

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney responded to the news on Friday with a picture of the infamous Fortnite banana man. (Don’t worry, this one is safe for work.)

— Google’s response: On Monday, the search giant filed an answer to and counterclaim against Epic in the Fortnite-maker’s antitrust suit over the Google Play store, contending that Epic “entered into a legal agreement with Google with which it never intended to comply, deceiving Google and concealing its true intentions to provoke a legal and public relations confrontation that continues to this day.”

Epic’s suit against Google targets the company for engaging in side deals and contracts that Epic says allows it to engage in anti-competitive conduct. Google has said Epic’s lawsuit was “baseless and mischaracterizes our business conversations,” and that the company’s contracts with smartphone makers are optional, as manufacturers can use Google’s Android operating system for free.

WATCH OUT FOR THE CHILDREN — The FTC should keep tech companies accountable for their commitments to users, especially recently announced policy changes aimed at protecting young people online, lawmakers told FTC Chair Lina Khan in a letter on Friday. The companies’ announcements came as the U.K.’s Age Appropriate Design Code, a set of digital standards for protecting minors’ digital privacy, went into effect last month.

“These policy changes are no substitute for congressional action on children’s privacy, but they are important steps towards making the internet safer for young users. … We therefore encourage you to use every tool at your disposal to vigilantly scrutinize companies’ data practices and ensure that they abide by their public commitments,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) and Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) wrote.

— Facebook’s cleanup continues: Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president for global affairs, on Sunday outlined new features the company would be rolling out for how younger users engage with Instagram. Among them: an option for parents to supervise what their teens view, a way to “nudge” teens away from potentially harmful content and a feature to encourage users to “take a break” while using the app.

Riya Anandwala is joining cryptocurrency exchange Bullish to work on comms. She was most recently director of industry communications at the Consumer Technology Association. … Chloe Autio is joining the Cantellus Group to work on AI policy for public and private sector clients. She was most recently a director of policy at Intel. … Anusha Alikhan is now the Wikimedia Foundation’s VP of comms. Margeigh Novotny is now VP of product design.

Colleen Bell is now a managing director at Finsbury Glover Hering. She most recently was a senior adviser and legislative director for Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). … Pali Bhat has joined Reddit as its first chief product officer. Bhat was previously at Google, where he was most recently VP of product and design at Google Cloud. … David Ward is leaving the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, where he’s director of public affairs, to join Amazon Web Services, where he will help with PR on its sustainability work.

The FCC announced additional members to the North American Numbering Council and its working groups. New council members include Sarah Leggin, director of regulatory affairs at CTIA; Joshua Bercu, VP of advocacy and policy at USTelecom; and Sarah Halko, director of regulatory and industry affairs at Telnyx LLC, as an alternate.

SPOTTED: Microsoft President Brad Smith rubbing shoulders with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) at a Green Bay Packers game over the weekend. Smith donated $2,900 to Gallagher earlier this year. Photo

Agency makeover: “FTC Weighs Early Retirement Offers for Veteran Staffers As Khan Reshapes Agency,” The Information reports.

Lessons learned: “The education of Frances Haugen: How the Facebook whistleblower learned to use data as a weapon from years in tech,” via WaPo.

Many children left behind? Edgenuity, a virtual classroom company, made millions off its software. But many of the students that used it felt abandoned, BuzzFeed reports.

Open internet: How should policymakers address issues like competition, content moderation and algorithms? Twitter offers some regulatory principles.

Hot take: “Facebook Faces the Media’s Existential Crisis,” via Puck.

Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected]), Heidi Vogt ([email protected]), John Hendel ([email protected]), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected]), Leah Nylen ([email protected]olitico.com), Emily Birnbaum ([email protected]), and Benjamin Din ([email protected]). Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.


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