Senate panel to hold privacy-focused AI hearing

The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing Thursday centered on privacy-related concerns stemming from the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), the committee announced Monday.

The hearing will examine how AI has “accelerated the need for a federal comprehensive privacy law,” according to the committee announcement.

The hearing was scheduled amid mounting pressure for Congress to put AI rules in place, as well as a comprehensive federal privacy law.

The U.S. lacks a comprehensive federal privacy law, as states and other countries roll out new standards that regulate the largely U.S.-based tech giants.

The American Privacy Rights Act, a bipartisan data privacy bill led by Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), was scheduled for a markup in the House last month, but the meeting was pulled shortly before it began after pushback from House GOP leaders. The House pushback threatens the bill’s chances of passage this session, but it is likely to emerge during a Senate hearing on the topic.

The bill would give people more control over their data and add requirements such as letting users opt out of targeted advertising and data transfers. It would also create a private right of action that allows consumers to seek financial damages through court and preempt state laws.

The Senate hearing will feature testimony from Ryan Calo, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law and co-director of the University of Washington Tech Policy Lab; Amba Kak, co-executive director of the AI Now Institute; and Udbhav Tiwari, director of global product policy at Mozilla.

More witnesses will be announced, according to the committee.

Congress has also been weighing AI regulations but has yet to pass any laws as the technology advances.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) released an AI roadmap for regulation in May, but the document was light on calls for specific regulation.

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