Former Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd – who was a leading voice on technology issues during his three terms in Congress and now advises on similar issues as a managing director at Allen & Co. – said this week that a national data privacy standard is needed to put ground rules in place for wider use of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

During a January 5 event organized by Wired Magazine, Hurd emphasized the need for congressional action on a privacy standard to help guide the use of the fast-moving technology.

“What’s scary for me, [is] this is moving so fast,” he said. “I thought I had a good grasp on the direction that AI was going when I was in Congress, and then now being out in the private sector and seeing and advising a number of great companies on this … this technology is moving literally at lightspeed.”

Hurd, who left Congress in January 2021, said that policy development on the issue needs to begin with a national data privacy standard.

“That means then we can start talking about how do you protect data, how data can be used, and who owns the data,” he said.

“To me, that data is mine,” Hurd explained. “Anything I do digitally, that’s mine, and I should be able to decide how that information is used. I should be able to monetize that if I want to.”

“These conversations are complicated, because at the end of the day, whoever masters AI is going to master the world,” Hurd said.

The former congressman said the larger conversation around AI tech also has to encompass a wide range of voices. Asked about his vision for AI that is sustainable, ethical, and productive, Hurd replied, “I think we can get there … but it’s conversations plural.”

Those debates, he said, “need to be happening at many different levels – they need to be happening in academia, they need to be happening in business, they need to be happening in government and in local governments.”

“Local governments have a role in this, when you start thinking about smart cities and smart cities initiatives, and how these cities are collecting data and information in order to provide better services to their citizens. So even local governments have a role to play in this, and I don’t think you can have one platform where we’re going to say here are the edicts on artificial intelligence.”

“You’ve got to have many of these conversations, we’ve got to be having these conversations with our allies in Europe,” he said, “because we should be working with our friends on this.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.