Emerging Technologies Washington Update

August 20, 2020

Pardon Our Dust

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This week: Agencies issue guidance on UAS detection and mitigation technology; White House calls for 30% boost to AI and quantum information science funding; California approves final CCPA regulations; DOE and DOD announce First Five Consortium to leverage AI in disaster response.

Agencies Issue Guidance on UAS Detection and Mitigation Technology

This week, the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released interagency advisory guidance on use of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) detection and mitigation technology. The document is intended to advise both non-federal public and private entities and provides an overview of relevant US criminal code enforced by DOJ, as well as laws and regulations enforced by the FAA, DHS, and FCC pertaining to aviation safety, airport security, and spectrum.

In recent years, Congress granted limited UAS countermeasures authorities to the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Energy (DOE), and later to DOJ and DHS, in annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) legislation. These entities do not have authority to approve state and local or private use of UAS detection or mitigation capabilities, or to conduct legal reviews of commercially available products.

Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen, who previously served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation, said the guidance is a response to an increase in the availability of UAS countermeasures technologies, which “may be presented for sale without a full discussion of important legal requirements.”

White House Calls for 30% Boost to AI and Quantum Information Science Funding

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a report last week indicating the Trump Administration aims to increase non-defense research and development (R&D) spending on artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum information science (QIS) by almost a third in FY2021. US Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios, who last month was also appointed Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering at the Pentagon, stated, “The FY21 Budget affirms the importance of technology leadership to America’s economic strength and national security.”

The proposal, which Congress would need to approve, includes funding to build AI research institutes established by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Agriculture, and other agencies. It also sets aside $25 million for the Department of Energy to support early stage research and development for a quantum internet. Overall, the proposal would boost AI funding from almost $1.2 billion this year to $1.5 billion next and QIS funding from $579 million to about $700 million. 

The budget reflects the Administration’s ongoing efforts to cultivate U.S. AI and quantum leadership. In February 2019, President Trump signed Executive Order 13859 to launch the American AI Initiative, which includes investing in R&D, setting AI governance standards, mobilizing Federal data resources, encouraging workforce development, and partnering with international allies. In December 2018, the President signed the bipartisan National Quantum Initiative Act, which authorized $1.2 billion in Federal R&D spending over five years, established the National Quantum Coordination Office, and called for the creation of new QIS research institutes and consortia around the country. That legislation was introduced by former House Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) and former Ranking Member, now Chairwoman, Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).

California Approves Final CCPA Regulations

On August 14, the California Office of Administrative Law (OAL) approved final regulations for the Attorney General to enforce the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). CCPA went into effect on January 1, 2020 and Attorney General Xavier Becerra began enforcement on July 1, in accordance with the law. However, OAL had not yet approved the regulations, which Becerra submitted for review in June.

OAL withdrew several provisions from the proposed regulations, which the Attorney General may resubmit after further review and revision:

  • § 999.305(a)(5). The portion of this provision requiring a business to obtain explicit consent from a consumer prior to using the consumer’s previously collected personal information for a purpose materially different than what was previously disclosed to the consumer.
  • § 999.306(b)(2). The provision stating that a business that substantially interacts with consumers offline shall also provide notice of the right to opt out by an offline method that facilitates consumer awareness of the right to opt out.
  • § 999.315(c). The provision requiring a business’s methods for submitting requests to opt out to be easy for consumers to execute and require minimal steps to allow the consumer to opt out.
  • § 999.326(c). The provision stating that a business may deny a request from an authorized agent that does not submit proof that they have been authorized by the consumer to act on their behalf.

OAL also made several “non-substantive” changes for accuracy, consistency, and clarity. Notably, OAL honored the Attorney General’s request that the final approved regulations go into effect immediately, rather than be subject to a standard delay once filed with the Secretary of State.

In November, Californians will have the opportunity to vote on Prop 24, the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), which would build upon CCPA and further advance the state’s leading consumer privacy protection laws. CPRA would largely shift consumer privacy enforcement away from the Attorney General to the California Privacy Protection Agency (CPPA), a new, first of its kind state agency.

DOE and DOD Announce First Five Consortium to Leverage AI in Disaster Response

On Tuesday, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Defense (DOD) Artificial Intelligence and Technology Office (AITO) launched the First Five Consortium (First Five), a public-private partnership comprised of industry, government, non-profit, and academic organizations pledging to work together to develop and apply artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning (machine learning) methodologies to help first responders address natural and humanitarian disasters. Microsoft Corporation will chair the consortium, which formed in response to a White House forum earlier this year on AI’s role in humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

The name of the consortium comes from the “make-it-or-break-it” first five minutes in disaster response.  Initially, it will focus on research, including wildfire prediction and fire line containment; damage assessment, including ingress and egress routes for impacted areas; search and rescue; and natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes.

Currently, DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is working to scale a prototype developed by the DOD Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) that uses algorithms to provide near real-time data to help inform first responders’ decision-making. Although the JAIC developed its AI-powered systems for military purposes, it is working with DOE to adapt them to assist Americans when disasters strike.