The White House AI budget, Moscow’s facial recognition system, and the Ethical Use of Facial Recognition Act

Worth Knowing

Moscow Expands Its Facial Recognition System: Moscow’s facial recognition system has been fully operational since January 1st. The system cost $53.3M and consists of 175,000 cameras, making Moscow one of the world’s most surveilled cities. Although the technology has been in development since 2017, Russian facial recognition company NtechLab recently won a contract to provide video detection services, allowing the implementation of facial recognition components. The system’s rollout has met with some resistance, including a court challenge and an activist campaign urging people to resist the technology by painting their faces.
AAAI-20 and AIES Conferences Held In New York: The 34th Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Conference on AI was held February 7-12 in New York. With more than 3,000 attendees, AAAI is one of the largest annual AI conferences, though organizers anticipated decreased attendance by Chinese scholars because of the coronavirus. Paper submissions reached a record 8,800; last year’s total was 7,700. For the third year in a row, the conference was co-located with a conference on Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society
Government Updates

White House Proposed Budget Increases AI Spending, Cuts Overall R&D: The President’s 2021 budget proposes significant increases to AI spending and commits to doubling non-defense AI R&D by 2022. Relative to last year’s request, the budget proposes:
  • Increasing the JAIC budget by $48M
  • Increasing NSF AI R&D by $376M
At the same time, it also requests broad cuts to research, which some researchers say could harm AI. Relative to current enacted funding levels for 2020, the budget would:
  • Decrease NSF funding overall by $540M
  • Decrease aggregate federal funding for basic research by $2.8B and for applied research by $5.1B
  • Decrease NIST funding by $296M
The President’s budget request has included similar research cuts in previous years, but Congress has rejected them.

Senators Introduce Facial Recognition Bill: Senators Merkley and Booker introduced legislation that, if enacted, would place a moratorium on the federal use of facial recognition pending further congressional action. The Ethical Use of Facial Recognition Act establishes a 13-member commission tasked with recommending guidelines and limitations for the technology, and lays out a process for considering legislation. Until then, federal use of facial recognition would be suspended, though police could still use it with a warrant. There is currently no companion bill in the House.

Judge Blocks JEDI Contract: The U.S. Court of Federal Claims blocked the Pentagon from moving forward with its $10 billion cloud computing contract. Last Thursday, Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith granted Amazon’s motion for a preliminary injunction against the DOD’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure project contract. JEDI is a 10-year contract to modernize the tech infrastructure of the DOD, including implementing AI for defense operations. Microsoft was awarded the contract in October, but Amazon argued that Trump’s “personal animus” toward the company biased the selection process. The work, scheduled to begin last Friday, is now suspended until further notice.

Commerce Reportedly Considers Restricting Exports to Chip-Makers Supplying Huawei: The Department of Commerce is reportedly considering new limits on the export of U.S. chip-making equipment. The restrictions would require foreign chip-makers to obtain a license before using U.S. semiconductor manufacturing equipment to make chips for Huawei. However, some experts warn this regulation would only hurt U.S. companies if done unilaterally, as foreign chip-makers could obtain the equipment from other countries. On Tuesday, though, President Trump tweeted that sales of U.S. technology to China should not be limited, making the likelihood of restrictions unclear.

In Translation
CSET's translations of significant foreign language documents on AI

Foreign Expert Talent Notice: Notice on Applying for 2020 National Foreign Expert Projects. Description of three Chinese government programs designed to recruit foreign talent in 2020, particularly in tech fields. The notice explains the purpose of each talent program and the benefits conferred upon foreign experts who are accepted.

What We’re Reading

Paper: University of Pennsylvania Input to National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, Penn Global and Perry World House (February 2020)

Report: Artificial Intelligence and Public Standards, UK Committee on Standards in Public Life (February 2020)

Report: A Brief Examination of Chinese Government Expenditures on AI R&D, Institute for Defense Analyses (February 2020)

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