US President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the National Security Agency has warned of growing threats posed by artificial intelligence, from election interference to the potential export of repressive technologies by China.
Airforce lieutenant-general Timothy Haugh told the senate armed services committee that those threats could show up in next year’s presidential election. “As we look at this election cycle, the area that we do have to consider that will be slightly different will be the role of generative AI,” Haugh said.
The White House has asked leading AI companies to offer voluntary commitments for limits on the powerful new technology, while congress is in the early stages of learning about the issue before drafting regulation.
US officials and analysts have said AI-generated deepfakes could help foreign adversaries spread disinformation.
Haugh also warned that China may seek to export AI technologies that it uses to control its population. “When we think about where China has focused much of their AI, it’s about information control. It’s about facial recognition, it’s about dominating the population,” said Haugh, who would also serve as head of US Cyber Command if confirmed by the senate.
“As they consider exporting those technologies — as they’ve done in the past with the Great Firewall technology — it’s an area from a threat perspective” that should be weighed by “any nation that they will consider partnering with”, he said.
Haugh called China the “most capable competitor that we have in cyberspace”, saying it uses cyber tools to “gain political, economic and military advantage”.
Still, the US currently has an edge over China when it comes to AI technologies, he said. Beijing’s efforts to become a leader in the sector are pitted against US tech sanctions and concerns from Chinese regulators about data security, as well as China’s pervasive use of censorship.
China’s ministry of industry & IT pledged on Wednesday to push the expansion in computing power needed to drive breakthroughs in generative AI.
Commerce secretary Gina Raimondo was among US officials whose e-mails were breached in a hack of government accounts that Microsoft has said originated from China, according to a person familiar with the matter. But China’s foreign ministry has repeatedly said Beijing is a victim, not a perpetrator of cyberattacks.
China’s foreign ministry has repeatedly said Beijing is a victim, not a perpetrator of cyberattacks
Haugh paired his warnings about China with reassurances that the NSA would take a “methodological” approach to the analysis of data and ensure that AI is used in a way that “does not impact the civil liberties of any American”. Congress is embroiled in a recurring debate about government use of communications by Americans with people abroad that are swept up through the NSA’s global surveillance capabilities.
If confirmed by the senate, Haugh will replace Paul Nakasone, who has led both NSA and Cyber Command since 2018. — Peter Martin, (c) 2023 Bloomberg LP