Rep. Buddy Carter signals support for federal privacy legislation

Rep. Buddy Carter signals support for federal privacy legislation

Rep. Buddy Carter signaled support on Tuesday for federal tech privacy legislation, indicating a willingness to work with the Biden administration on such a measure.

Carter (R-Ga.), who sits on the House Energy and Commerce tech subcommittee, said at a Tuesday POLITICO Live event on ethics and artificial intelligence that “we need to look at” privacy legislation, saying it could ease concerns and build public confidence in AI.

Currently, the United States does not have a federal digital privacy law on the books, leaving tech data available in some cases, for example, to the U.S. military as well as foreign nations. There is also no robust government oversight of AI algorithms, allowing tech firms to call the shots. Lawmakers have previously voiced bipartisan concerns about facial recognition technology and other AI-related concerns, but broad federal privacy legislation has stalled.

Carter cited concerns about artificial intelligence in light of China’s broad use of AI facial recognition and other technology for surveillance.

“People are naturally and rightfully concerned,” Carter said. “In order for it to succeed, we’ve got to have a buy-in if you will by the general public. We need them to have confidence in that.”

Carter emphasized that he wants the government to not have “that strong” of a role, but said he understood that the government will have to have some role in regulation.

“The benefits of AI are enormous. There are risks, there’s no question about it. And we’ve got to understand and know how we’re going to manage those risks,” Carter said.

Carter acknowledged finding support for increased regulation might be hard to find among the GOP caucus, though.

The European Union implemented its own privacy law in 2018, but concerns about a lack of enforcement have remained. The U.S. has lagged behind the Europe in privacy, Terrell McSweeny, a Federal Trade Commission commissioner from 2014-2018 and current partner at Covington & Burling LLP, said at the event Tuesday.

Carter also said he is committed to working with the Biden administration on tech issues. Working with the EU can help to alleviate fears about AI, he said.

“We need to work with the European Union,” Carter said. “Russia and China are not our friends. There are a lot of good things that can come out of AI … but there is also a lot of bad things. We’ve got to get past that fear … and we’ve got to move forward.”

Panelists at the event called for a more unified approach to privacy regulation. An alliance on tech between the EU and the United States faces major impediments, with the two entities not agreeing on some key policy issues.

“It doesn’t mean we have to come up with the same exact regulatory frameworks globally,” McSweeny said. “I’m hopeful that because the new administration is really committed to working with our allies we can reset the conversation with Europe a little bit. We’re at an early enough stage, especially with regards to AI, that we can start to bring some of these ideas together.”

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