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Biden’s AI Bill of Rights shoots for the stars. Congress is still digging a foundation.

Protocol Policy

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Policy! Today we look at the AI Bill of Rights from the White House and how it fits into the existing privacy push by Congress. As you have likely already heard, the Twitter deal is back on. Also, Micron plans to invest a whopping $100 billion in a New York state chip factory thanks to the Chips-Plus package.

Pie in the sk(AI)

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Tuesday unveiled The Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights. The document is lofty and well intended, but not particularly practical in the near term — nor to the liking of some AI watchdogs, as Protocol’s Kate Kaye pointed out.

  • The white paper sketches out five standards that will help ensure automated systems don’t infringe on our rights: protection from unsafe systems, equitable/nondiscriminatory algorithms, agency over our data, transparency over automated systems, and access to opt-outs and remedies.
  • (Sorry, if you were expecting a manifesto on the rights of sentient robots, look elsewhere.)

The OSTP is careful to emphasize that it’s only intended to support the development of official policies. In other words, the AI Bill of Rights has as much legal authority as this newsletter. Still, it’s useful in that it represents a sort of regulatory wish list for the Biden administration.

  • To be fair, the OSTP includes a lot of precise, prescriptive guidance for corporations. The infeasibility doesn’t come from the lack of specific guidance, then, but from the fact that corporations are unlikely to respond unless compelled by the government.
  • Some of the guidance is also so disruptive to the status quo that it would remake entire industries. For example, the AI Bill of Rights advises that “you should be able to opt out from automated systems in favor of a human alternative.” But there simply aren’t human alternatives at scale for much of what we do on the internet.

Sometimes the OSTP doesn’t even seem sure of its own recommendations. For example, the bill of rights calls for unchecked surveillance to be avoided unless “strictly necessary” but then goes on to say national security agencies should only abide by these guidelines “where feasible.” So, you know … restaurants should never charge extra for guac, but Chipotle can do so “when convenient.”

These feasibility challenges persist in the prescriptions for the private sector.

  • The OSTP calls for the timely removal of user data from machine learning systems trained with that data. But as I’ve noted before, companies often have no idea where user data flows within their own data pipelines. This complexity likely makes it impossible to comply with existing privacy laws, including the California Consumer Privacy Act and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.
  • The OSTP also tells companies they should be doing “proactive equity assessments” while also not tracking or using proxies for demographic features. How do you verify lack of bias against a demographic while also ensuring you can’t track it?

The bill of rights goes above and beyond the primary federal bill under consideration — and that may be its greatest strength. The American Data Privacy and Protection Act is a big deal, even if it suffers from a significant preemption problem. But next to the AI Bill of Rights, it looks somewhat unambitious:

  • There’s overlap in the sense that both the ADPPA and the AI Bill of Rights say Americans should be able to request their information, request that it be deleted, and tell companies to change personal information when it’s not accurate.
  • But the bill of rights includes many more ambitious privacy goals, including more rigorous consent standards for obtaining user data and better data protections in sensitive user domains such as health care and education.
  • The ambiguity and idealism in the AI Bill of Rights can be criticized as its greatest weakness, but in some sense they are its greatest strength: The document shows the federal government is at least thinking of privacy in a much more ambitious way than the bills in Congress would let on.

The OSTP shot for the stars. Congress is still on the ground building a privacy foundation. That combination in itself can be a great thing. But if ADPPA ends up not passing, what use do we have for a starry-eyed bill of rights?

— Hirsh Chitkara (email | twitter)

In Washington

The Twitter deal is back on … probably. Elon Musk on Tuesday sent a letter to Twitter saying he’d buy the company at his original offered price of $54.20 per share. The question now is, why? Theories abound, and we’ll be watching this one closely in the coming days. It’s been a long, strange detour — but hey, at least we got to read some entertaining text messages along the way.

The Biden administration is expected to further restrict China’s chip access. The plan, which will reportedly be made public Thursday, would include expanding Huawei-level export restrictions to several Chinese firms and government research labs. It would also restrict the export of cutting-edge chipmaking tools that contained U.S. technology.

A potential Republican midterm sweep is putting pressure on the Biden-TikTok deal,according to The Wall Street Journal. Republicans have promised to hold hearings on TikTok and the threat it poses to national security if they win the House and Senate. The White House, on the other hand, wants to broker a deal with TikTok that includes assurances on user data security.

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In the states

Micron unveiled plans to spend up to $100 billion on a chip plant in New York state. The investment will be allocated over a 20-year period to build in the city of Clay, a Syracuse suburb. Micron’s CEO said the investment wouldn’t have been made if not for the Chips Act.

Google agreed to pay $85 million in a settlement with Arizona. The lawsuit, brought by Attorney General Mark Brnovich, centers on Google’s alleged use of location tracking on smartphones even when users turned off location tracking.

Around the world

Policymakers in Europe, Japan, and South Korea claim the U.S. plan for electric vehicle subsidies could violate World Trade Organization rules, according to The Wall Street Journal. Those officials say the U.S. shouldn’t be allowed to limit its $7,500 EV subsidy only to cars that were assembled in North America.

The European Parliament passed a law requiring USB-C charging ports for smartphones by the end of 2024. Apple is testing an iPhone with a USB-C port instead of the standard Lightning, and it could be integrated into iPhones as soon as the second half of 2023, according to MacRumors.

Nvidia is exiting Russia entirely. The company stopped selling products there in March, but continued operating to support its employee base there. Those employees will be given the option to relocate to other countries, Nvidia said.

In the media, culture, and metaverse

As with so much else in cryptoland, the key word in Kim Kardashian’s SEC case was “security.” She had to pay up, Axios explains, because the SEC found that Kardashian was touting a security when she talked up EMAX. Recommending a company or a commodity is a different matter.

Facebook is sunsetting its in-house news service. The Substack competitor, Bulletin, will close down in January. It launched in June 2021.

In data

$2.5 billion: That’s the expected value of iPhone exports from India to the rest of the world for the year ending March 2023, according to Bloomberg sources. If Apple ends up reaching that threshold, India will have doubled the value of its iPhone exports from the year prior.

Step aside, 230

The Onion filed a brief with the Supreme Court in defense of parody. The satirical newspaper included both careful legal argumentation as well as claims that it “now enjoys a daily readership of 4.3 trillion and has grown into the single most powerful and influential organization in human history.”

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Thanks for reading — see you Friday!

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