At a glance.
- New law on horizon for EU data protection regulators.
- Supreme Court rejects Wikimedia appeal in NSA surveillance case.
- Update on the Gonzalez v. Google case.
- US issues declaration on military use of AI.
New law on horizon for EU data protection regulators.
The European Union has announced it will propose a new law focused on enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Since it was adopted in 2016, the GDPR has been enforced by the privacy regulators of individual countries in the bloc, but critics have been vocal about what they see as a lack of efficiency when it comes to actually penalizing violators, especially the tech giants of Silicon Valley. Tech companies are overseen by the national regulator of the EU country in which they’re headquartered, and because big hitters like Meta, Google, and Apple have all made their home offices in Ireland, the Irish Data Protection Commission bears an unbalanced amount of power. The privacy watchdog has also been criticized for what some experts consider a lax response to violations, and the Commission explains that the new measure “will harmonize some aspects of the administrative procedure” in cross-border cases and ” support a smooth functioning of the GDPR cooperation and dispute resolution mechanisms.” European Data Protection Supervisor Wojciech Wiewiórowski told POLITICO, “I think there are parts of the GDPR that definitely have to be adjusted to the future reality.” However, it’s anticipated that lobbyists and the regulators themselves will likely push back on the new law. Olivier Micol, head of the Commission’s unit for data protection, stated last month, “Nobody will be happy with the Commission proposal as usual, because the data protection authorities agree on the problem but they do not agree on the solutions.”
Supreme Court rejects Wikimedia appeal in NSA surveillance case.
Yesterday the US Supreme Court denied the Wikimedia Foundation’s appeal to resurrect a lawsuit challenging the National Security Agency’s use of mass surveillance of Americans’ web activities, meaning a lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit will hold. Reuters explains that the case was initially dismissed due to the government’s attestation that the details necessary to proceed were protected by “state secrets privilege” and that divulging information about the NSA’s surveillance program, dubbed Upstream, could be a threat to national security. Wikimedia, owner of leading online encyclopedia Wikipedia, has been arguing since 2015 that Upstream surveillance is unconstitutional because it violates users’ privacy rights. James Buatti, Wikimedia’s legal director, stated, “The Supreme Court’s refusal to grant our petition strikes a blow against an individual’s right to privacy and freedom of expression—two cornerstones of our society and the building blocks of Wikipedia.” As the Wall Street Journal notes, the Supreme Court’s decision delivered a blow to privacy groups just as Congress prepares to decide whether to renew Section 702, the law that authorizes such NSA surveillance.
Update on the Gonzalez v. Google case.
As we noted yesterday, the US Supreme Court is hearing two cases this week that could decide the future of Section 230, a measure within the Communications Decency Act that protects internet companies from liability for content posted by users. AP News offers an overview of how the measure has impacted internet content and platforms and users’ rights to freedom of speech. Yesterday the US’s highest court heard Gonzalez v. Google, which questions whether video streaming platform YouTube should be held accountable for videos promoting ISIS that potentially served as motivation for the 2015 Paris that resulted in the deaths of over one hundred people, including American college student Nohemi Gonzalez. The Washington Post reports that Gonzalez family lawyer Eric Schnapper argued that Section 230’s protections should not apply to Google’s algorithmic recommendations that incentivize the promotion of harmful content. After hearing nearly three hours of oral arguments, the justices indicated they did not feel Schnapper had offered a coherent enough case to revise 230, signaling they would move cautiously in making their final decision. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan stated, “We’re a court. We really don’t know about these things. You know, these are not like the nine greatest experts on the internet.”
US issues declaration on military use of AI.
Last week the US Department of State released a political declaration on how the military should practice responsibility when employing artificial intelligence. The statement explains that as states increase their use of AI to enable autonomous systems for use in armed military conflict, they should “take appropriate measures to ensure the responsible development, deployment, and use of their military AI capabilities.” The declaration goes on to list a number of statements on best practices states should employ, including conducting legal reviews to ensure that military AI capabilities are consistent with international law, maintaining human involvement for all actions linked to nuclear weapons employment, and implementing principles for the responsible design, development, deployment, and use of military AI capabilities. AP News reports that Bonnie Jenkins, the State Department’s under secretary for arms control and international security, issued the declaration at the close of a conference in The Hague amidst reports that Russia’s war in Ukraine could herald the world’s first fully autonomous fighting robots. Jenkins explained, “As a rapidly changing technology, we have an obligation to create strong norms of responsible behavior concerning military uses of AI and in a way that keeps in mind that applications of AI by militaries will undoubtedly change in the coming years.”