FCC, FTC announce fact-finding projects on AI and consumer protection

The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission recently released notices to gather information on the use of advanced technologies in consumer sectors that the regulators oversee.

The FCC announced that it is exploring emerging AI technologies and their connection to its work to protect consumers from unwanted and illegal calls and text messages under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). While recognizing potential advantages, the FCC is looking into the new technologies’ potential impact on consumers’ privacy rights under the TCPA. It requests comment on how to define AI technologies in the context of robocalls and robotexts, information on potential benefits and risks that AI technologies may create, and suggestions for future actions to protect consumers from unwanted, illegal robocalls and robotexts.

The FTC on the other hand is exploring voice cloning technology, the follow on to text-to-voice technology. The FTC notes that voice cloning has potential consumer benefits, including devices for those who lose their voices due to accident or illness. But it is the other side of the coin, the potential for abuse, scams, and fraud, that concerns the regulator. The FTC’s factfinding approach takes a creative turn, beyond the typical notice-and-comment process. It announced its “voice cloning challenge,” where it will accept public submissions with ideas “aimed at preventing, monitoring, and evaluating malicious use of voice cloning technology.” Parties can submit their ideas between January 2 and January 12, 2024, and a $25,000 prize offer will be waiting for the challenge winner.

The agencies’ pronouncements follow the White House’s October 30 executive order on artificial intelligence which broadly covers standards on cybersecurity, health sciences, consumer protection and privacy, as well as civil rights and worker rights.

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