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U.S. pushes back against international AI regulation efforts as Portland delays facial biometrics ban again



Regulating advanced technology is a touchy subject at the best of times, but a plan announced by Canada and France last year for the G7 to establish an international body to guide artificial intelligence policy, modeled on the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is causing concern among some U.S. authorities, Wired reports.

The other six G7 nations have agreed to proceed, but White House claims the body would be unnecessary bureaucracy which could hinder AI development. The Global Partnership also has the EU, India, and New Zealand interested, and French Digital Affair Minister Cédric O told Wired following a meeting with U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios, “there is a common consensus but for one country.”

O says he is sympathetic with the U.S.’ concern with slowing the technological development by American companies, but notes the risks and harms of AI use, as demonstrated by China.

The Global Partnership’s guidance would not be legally binding, but U.S. Deputy CTO Lynne Parker nonetheless expresses concern that it will be overly restrictive.

“Our concerns are that the group could be too heavy-handed,” she says. “We believe it’s unethical to hamper and squash down the development of AI technology to the point where you don’t want to use it.”

Parker is also concerned the body will duplicate work by the OECD.

“Europe and our allies should avoid heavy handed innovation-killing models, and instead consider a similar regulatory approach. The best way to counter authoritarian uses of AI is to make sure America and our international partners remain the global hubs of innovation, shaping the evolution of technology in a manner consistent with our common values,” the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) said in a statement reported by VentureBeat.

“As countries around the world grapple with similar questions about the appropriate regulation of AI, the U.S.,” Kratsios told VentureBeat. “AI regulatory principles demonstrate that America is leading the way to shape the evolution in a way that reflects our values of freedom, human rights, and civil liberties. The new European Commission has said they intend to release an AI regulatory document in the coming months. After a productive meeting with Commissioner Vestager in November, we encourage Europe [EU] to use the U.S. AI principles as a framework. The best way to counter authoritarian uses of AI is to make America and our national partners remain the global hub of innovation, advancing our common values.”

The European Commission, meanwhile, is expected to release its own guidance on AI policy soon.

The six G7 countries in agreement are now in biweekly meetings, along with several other nations, with the goal of launching the Global Partnership early this year.

VentureBeat also notes that facial recognition has been targeted by local governments in a number of cities in the U.S., in the most high-profile example of AI regulation.

Portland City Council has voted unanimously to postpone a vote on barring the use of facial biometrics by municipal agencies until June 15, the Portland Press Herald reports. The city earlier pushed the decision to January from November.

Councillor Kimberly Cook urged council to enact a ban, or at least pass a resolution requiring council approval for specific uses of facial biometrics. City staff, meanwhile, have drafted an RFP for a self-driving vehicle program in the city. Cook expressed concern based on this application, while another councillor said no application of the technology is in the works.

The ACLU of Maine and the ACLU of Massachusetts have written Portland’s mayor and city council, urging them to pass the proposed ban.

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