Cybersecurity & Tech

The Cyberlaw Podcast: How Worried Should We Be About “Existential” AI Risk?

Stewart Baker
Tuesday, May 9, 2023, 2:10 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

The “godfather of AI” has left Google, offering warnings about the existential risks for humanity of the technologyMark MacCarthy calls those risks a fantasy, and a debate breaks out between Mark, Nate Jones, and me. There’s more agreement on the White House summit on AI risks, which seems to have followed Mark’s “let’s worry about tomorrow tomorrow” prescription. I think existential risks are a bigger concern, but I am deeply skeptical about other efforts to regulate AI, especially for bias, as readers of Cybertoonz know. I argue again that regulatory efforts to eliminate bias are an ill-disguised effort to impose quotas more widely, which provokes lively pushback from Jim Dempsey and Mark.

Other prospective AI regulators, from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s Lina Khan to the Italian data protection agency, come in for commentary. I’m struck by the caution both have shown, perhaps due to their recognizing the difficulty of applying old regulatory frameworks to this new technology. It’s not, I suspect, because Lina Khan’s FTC has lost its enthusiasm for pushing the law further than it can be pushed. This week’s example of litigation overreach at the FTC include a dismissed complaint in a location data case against Kochava, and a wildly disproportionate ‘remedy” for what look like Facebook foot faults in complying with an earlier FTC order. 

Jim brings us up to date on a slew of new state privacy laws in Montana, Indiana, and Tennessee. Jim sees them as business-friendly alternatives to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California’s privacy law. Mark reviews Pornhub’s reaction to the Utah law on kids’ access to porn. He thinks age verification requirements are due for another look by the courts.  

Jim explains the state appellate court decision ruling that the NotPetya attack on Merck was not an act of war and thus not excluded from its insurance coverage.

Nate and I recommend Kim Zetter’s revealing story on the  SolarWinds hack. The details help to explain why the Cyber Safety Review Board hasn’t examined SolarWinds—and why it absolutely has to—because the full story is going to embarrass a lot of powerful institutions.

In quick hits, 

  • Mark makes a bold prediction about the fate of Canada’s law requiring Google and Facebook to pay when they link to Canadian media stories: Just like in Australia, the tech giants and the industry will reach a deal. 
  • Jim and I comment on the three-year probation sentence for Joe Sullivan in the Uber “misprision of felony” case—and the sentencing judge’s wide-ranging commentary. 
  • I savor the impudence of the hacker who has broken into Russian intelligence’s bitcoin wallets and burned the money to post messages doxing the agencies involved.
  • And for those who missed it, Rick Salgado and I wrote a Lawfare article on why CISOs should support renewal of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) section 702, and Metacurity named it one of the week’s “Best Infosec-related Long Reads.” 

Download 456th 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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