: National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan talks to reporters during the daily news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on June 07, 2021 in Washington, DC.

: National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan talks to reporters during the daily news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on June 07, 2021 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sullivan: Data Privacy Key To AI Race Against China

New privacy-protecting technologies will enable democracies to work together to win the AI race against China, says Biden’s national security advisor.

If the United States is going to bring allies together to set norms  around new technologies like AI, they’ll have to address concerns about privacy, said Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor to U.S. President Joe Biden, said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the National Security Commission for Artificial Intelligence summit in Washington, D.C., Sullivan noted several recent Biden-administration initiatives aimed at setting multinational standards on 5G and other new technologies, and coordinating on supply-chain issues. One is the  Quad Critical and Emerging Technology Working Group, composed of representatives from India, Australia, Japan and the United States. 

But there is a lot of relationship repair work with allies to do. Areas of disagreement have emerged over the last several years between the United States and Europe around consumer data and how some American companies were treating it. In 2018, the European Union enacted a massive privacy law called the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, squarely aimed at how Silicon Valley companies were using Europeans’ data. And the European Union has since taken steps to further restrict how European companies’ data is shared. 

Sullivan on Tuesday said concerns about privacy wouldn’t necessarily be a barrier to better U.S. and allied partnership on AI. In fact, he said, privacy concerns actually underscore the two communities’ shared values and provide an important contrast with less democratic states like China and Russia. 

“I actually think there are innovations in the space and standards we can set that will give us the advantage over those societies that instead have shredded any notion of privacy. The large majority of the world actually is not ready to sign onto a vision of the future that says you have absolutely no privacy. No Trust. No security… big data owned by the government,” he said. 

Specifically, he highlighted emerging technologies like “privacy-preserving machine learning,” or PPML, that can allow machine learning algorithms to process data without revealing personal information in the data itself. Such technologies “promise to overcome data privacy challenges while still delivering the value of big data,” he said. 

That tracks closely with the NSCAI commission report, which sought to help the United States to compete on AI.  “The United States can use diplomacy and leverage its global partnerships to advocate for establishing privacy-protecting technical standards and norms in international bodies, and it can work with like-minded nations to ensure that other nations have an alternative to embracing China’s technology and methods of social control and access to technologies that protect democratic values like privacy,” it said.

The Biden administration was increasing the government’s ability to better monitor how companies are using consumers under Executive Order 13873, Sullivan said, an order that relates to the digital supply chain and connected devices, as well as the data those devices collect.

“Our strategic competitors see big data as a strategic asset. And we have to see it the same way.  But data security and privacy go to the heart of our national competitiveness, and the free flow of data with trust and security is critical for the third wave of the digital revolution,” he said.