Encryption

Lawmakers Move To Block Government From Ordering Digital 'Back Doors' (thehill.com) 87

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers have introduced legislation that would block the federal government from requiring technology companies to design devices with so-called "back doors" to allow law enforcement to access them. From a report: The bill represents the latest effort by lawmakers in Congress to wade into the battle between federal law enforcement officials and tech companies over encryption, which reached a boiling point in 2015 as the FBI tussled with Apple over a locked iPhone linked to the San Bernardino terror attack case.

Top FBI and Justice Department officials have repeatedly complained that they have been unable to access devices for ongoing criminal investigations because of encryption. FBI Director Christopher Wray has suggested that devices could be designed to allow investigators to access them, though he insists the bureau is not looking for a "back door." The bipartisan bill introduced Thursday would prohibit federal agencies from requiring or requesting that firms "design or alter the security functions in its product or service to allow the surveillance of any user of such product or service, or to allow the physical search of such product" by the government.

AI

The White House Has Set Up a Task Force To Help Further the Country's AI Development (theverge.com) 43

The White House has set up a new task force dedicated to US artificial intelligence efforts, the Trump administration announced today during an event with technology executives, government leaders, and AI experts. From a report: The news and the event, which was organized by the federal government, are both moves to further the country's AI development, as other regions like Europe and Asia ramp up AI investment and R&D as well. The administration will be further investing in AI, deputy CTO of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy Michael Kratsios said at the event.

"To realize the full potential of AI for the American people, it will require the combined efforts of industry, academia, and government," Kratsios said, according to FedScoop. According to the Trump administration, the federal government has increased its investment in unclassified R&D for AI by 40 percent since 2015. In his speech, Kratsios highlighted ways the US could improve AI advancement, such as robotics startups in Pittsburgh that are models for how to spur job growth in areas hurt by workplace automation. Startups like those now hire engineers, scientists, bookkeepers, and administrators, he said, and are evidence that AI does not necessarily mean massive unemployment is on the horizon.
Further reading: The White House says a new AI task force will protect workers and keep America first (MIT Tech Review).
Google

Google Executive Addresses Horrifying Reaction To Uncanny AI Tech (bloomberg.com) 205

The most talked-about product from Google's developer conference earlier this week -- Duplex -- has drawn concerns from many. At the conference Google previewed Duplex, an experimental service that lets its voice-based digital assistant make phone calls and write emails. In a demonstration on stage, the Google Assistant spoke with a hair salon receptionist, mimicking the "ums" and "hmms" pauses of human speech. In another demo, it chatted with a restaurant employee to book a table. But outside Google's circles, people are worried; and Google appears to be aware of the concerns. From a report: "Horrifying," Zeynep Tufekci, a professor and frequent tech company critic, wrote on Twitter about Duplex. "Silicon Valley is ethically lost, rudderless and has not learned a thing." As in previous years, the company unveiled a feature before it was ready. Google is still debating how to unleash it, and how human to make the technology, several employees said during the conference. That debate touches on a far bigger dilemma for Google: As the company races to build uncanny, human-like intelligence, it is wary of any missteps that cause people to lose trust in using its services.

Scott Huffman, an executive on Google's Assistant team, said the response to Duplex was mixed. Some people were blown away by the technical demos, while others were concerned about the implications. Huffman said he understands the concerns. Although he doesn't endorse one proposed solution to the creepy factor: Giving it an obviously robotic voice when it calls. "People will probably hang up," he said.

[...] Another Google employee working on the assistant seemed to disagree. "We don't want to pretend to be a human," designer Ryan Germick said when discussing the digital assistant at a developer session earlier on Wednesday. Germick did agree, however, that Google's aim was to make the assistant human enough to keep users engaged. The unspoken goal: Keep users asking questions and sharing information with the company -- which can use that to collect more data to improve its answers and services.

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