DC In the Desert: A Brief Dispatch on CES 2023

By Paul Lekas, Senior Vice President, Global Policy, Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA).

Last week, members of SIIA’s policy team – along with over 115,000 others – attended the annual CES trade show in Las Vegas. CES showcased the future of tech innovation in autonomy, AI, health, gaming, robotics, and more. It was also an opportunity to convene thought leaders and government officials in a series of discussions on critical information and technology policy issues – including across SIIA’s policy portfolio. Here are our key takeaways from “DC in the desert”:

  • Resilience is the new watchword. Resilience of global supply chains, resilience of cybersecurity protocol to ensure a healthy digital ecosystem, and resilience of international alliances and partnerships. Policymakers will continue to look for ways to advance resilience across the digital ecosystems. This means advancing robust, secure, reliable and inclusive frameworks for cybersecurity and digital access. CISA Director Jen Easterly and National Cyber Deputy Director Camille Stewart Gloster spoke eloquently on the topic.
  • Content moderation will be big in the 118th Congress. As the Supreme Court readies to hear challenges to Section 230, Congress is prepared to investigate content moderation and possibly legislate on Section 230 reform. Nevertheless, voices from industry, government, and civil society expressed concern that legislative reform could restrict free speech and have significant negative effects on the Internet as we know it today.
  • International tech standards are critical to ensuring the safety and reliability of technology and comportment with democratic values. Industry has a critical role in participating in the development of international technological  standards. Government and industry representatives spoke to the importance of advancing standards around cybersecurity, AI, and other key technologies and involving a greater segment of the private sector.
  • Fostering international cooperation on digital policy. International cooperation is key to fostering interoperability and innovation. Forums such as the US-EU TTC, IPEF, and APEC have a lead role to achieve this. Several speakers conveyed optimism that these new forums will help advance an international data governance framework that comports with democratic values.
  • Continued need for federal privacy legislation. Civil society, industry, and government representatives lamented the failure of ADPPA in 2022 and hope there is an opportunity to move forward legislation in 2023. Thought leaders were virtually united in the view that the United States needs a national standard for privacy, and anticipate – in its absence – that a growing patchwork of state regulation will exacerbate challenges for consumers and businesses alike.
  • Digital divide. The digital divide in terms of broadband connectivity is alarming, yet there is hope the new funding authorized in 2022 will enable NTIA and the FCC to close the gap. FCC Commissioners Simington and Starks and NTIA Director Davidson spoke passionately about this effort.
  • The FTC will be active yet remains under resourced. FTC representatives, including Commissioner Slaughter, spoke to the FTC’s continued efforts to police the online ecosystem through existing authorities yet expressed serious concerns about the FTC’s resourcing.
  • The US-China tech competition. While concerns about the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took a backseat at CES, Senator Warner described it as “the issue of our time,” pointing to how tech and national security are inextricably intertwined.
  • AI efforts continue and differences between the US and EU approaches remain. The primary vehicles for AI regulation remain, in the U.S., the NIST AI Risk Management Framework – a voluntary framework which will be published this month – and the EU AI Act. The AI Act continues to take a heavier hand in oversight and pre-market regulation, in contrast to the NIST approach.

These CES discussions provided insights into the perspectives of key government officials on important issues of the day. SIIA looks forward to continuing to work closely with Congress and the Executive Branch on the critical issues that align with our 2023 priorities.

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