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The Cyberlaw Podcast: What Makes AI Safe?

Stewart Baker
Tuesday, April 11, 2023, 11:16 AM

The latest episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

We do a long take on some of the AI safety reports that have been issued in recent weeks. Jeffery Atik first takes us through the basics of attention based AI, and then into reports from OpenAI and Stanford on AI safety. Exactly what AI safety covers remains opaque (and toxic, in my view, after the ideological purges committed by Silicon Valley’s “trust and safety” bureaucracies) but there’s no doubt that a potential existential issue lurks below the surface of the most ambitious efforts. Whether ChatGPT’s stochastic parroting will ever pose a threat to humanity or not, it clearly poses a threat to a lot of people’s reputations, Nick Weaver reports.

One of the biggest intel leaks of the last decade may not have anything to do with cybersecurity. Instead, the disclosure of multiple highly classified documents seems to have depended on the ability to fold, carry, and photograph the documents. While there’s some evidence that the Russian government may have piggybacked on the leak to sow disinformation, Nick says, the real puzzle is the leaker’s motivation. That leads us to the question whether being a griefer is grounds for losing your clearance.  

Paul Rosenzweig educates us about the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act, which would empower the administration to limit or ban TikTok. He highlights the most prominent argument against the bill, which is, no surprise, the discretion the act would confer on the executive branch. The bill’s authors, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), have responded to this criticism, but it looks as though they’ll be offering substantive limits on executive discretion only in the heat of Congressional action. 

Nick is impressed by the law enforcement operation to shutter Genesis Market, where credentials were widely sold to hackers. The data seized by the FBI in the operation will pay dividends for years.  

I give a warning to anyone who has left a sensitive intelligence job to work in the private sector: If your new employer has ties to a foreign government, the Director of National Intelligence has issued a new directive that (sort of) puts you on notice that you could be violating federal law. The directive means the intelligence community will do a pretty good job of telling its employees when they take a job that comes with post-employment restrictions, but IC alumni are so far getting very little guidance. 

Nick exults in the tough tone taken by the Treasury in its report on the illicit finance risk in decentralized finance.

Paul and I cover Utah’s bill requiring teens to get parental approval to join social media sites. After twenty years of mocking red states for trying to control the internet’s impact on kids, it looks to me as though Knowledge Class parents are getting worried for their own kids. When the idea of age-checking internet users gets endorsed by the UK, Utah, and the New Yorker, I suggest, those arguing against the proposal may have a tougher time than they did in the 90s. 

And in quick hits: 

And Nick and I puzzle over the conflict between the Biden administration and the New York Times about a spyware contract that supposedly undermined the administration’s stance on spyware.

Download 452nd Episode (mp3) 

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Stewart A. Baker is a partner in the Washington office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP. He returned to the firm following 3½ years at the Department of Homeland Security as its first Assistant Secretary for Policy. He earlier served as general counsel of the National Security Agency.

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