2021GovernmentTechnology

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

In November 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – a United States government agency that protects and educates consumers – announced the appointments of Olivier Sylvain, John Kwoka, Meredith Whittaker, Amba Kak, and Sarah Myers West to the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning, according to a press release from the FTC.

“Tackling unlawful conduct requires that we ensure our law enforcement and policy work are keeping pace with new market realities. These leaders in tech and economic policy will work alongside experts within the FTC and my office to help us realize that goal,” FTC Chair Lina M. Khan stated in the press release.

Sylvain, Whittaker, Kak, and Myers West will work with the FTC’s Chief Technology Officer and technologists in an informal Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy Group to provide insight and advice on emerging technology issues. Kwoka will work with competition economists and attorneys on an updated approach to merger review policies.

  • Olivier Sylvain will serve as Senior Advisor on Technology to the Chair. Sylvain joins the FTC from Fordham University where he has served as Professor of Law. An expert on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, his areas of scholarship include administrative law, information law, U.S. data protection and privacy law, and other information-economy related matters.
  • John Kwoka will serve as Chief Economist to the Chair. Kwoka joins the FTC from Northeastern University where he is the Neal F. Finnegan Distinguished Professor of Economics. He has published widely, with his recent scholarship focusing on ways to update and strengthen merger policy and other aspects of antitrust.
  • Meredith Whittaker will serve as Senior Advisor on Artificial Intelligence to the Chair. Whittaker joins the FTC from New York University (NYU) Tandon School of Engineering where she has served as Faculty Director of the AI Now Institute and the Minderoo Research Professor. Her work has focused on critically examining the intersection of technology and policy.
  • Amba Kak will serve as a Senior Advisor on Artificial Intelligence. Kak joins the FTC from NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering where she has served as the Director of Global Policy at the AI Now Institute. Having worked in multiple jurisdictions, she brings comparative global expertise to policy issues. Her recent research has focused on algorithmic accountability and biometric regulation.
  • Sarah Myers West will serve as an Advisor on Artificial Intelligence. Myers West joins the FTC from NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering where she has served as Research Scholar at the AI Now Institute. Her research examines the intersection of technology, labor, and platform accountability, as well as the history and political economy of the tech industry.

In April 2021, the FTC – which is also the nation’s primary privacy and data security enforcer – issued a business blog about “Aiming for truth, fairness, and equity in your company’s use of AI” to help businesses find out how to harness the benefits of AI without inadvertently introducing bias or other unfair outcomes.

The FTC has decades of experience enforcing three laws important to developers and users of AI, one of which is the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which comes into play in certain circumstances where an algorithm is used to deny people employment, housing, credit, insurance, or other benefits.

The FTC has used its expertise to report on big data analytics and machine learning, conduct a hearing on algorithms, AI, and predictive analytics, and issue business guidance on AI and algorithms. This work – coupled with FTC enforcement actions – offers important lessons on using AI truthfully, fairly, and equitably.

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