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Los Angeles Approves $278,000 Robot Police Dog Despite ‘Grave Concerns’
A $278,000 robotic dog was approved by the Los Angeles City Council, despite some council members expressing “grave concerns” about the Boston Dynamics-manufactured device.
The “Quadruped Unmanned Ground Vehicle” was offered as a donation to the Los Angeles Police Department by the Los Angeles Police Foundation, according to CBS Los Angeles. If the council hadn’t accepted the donation, the offer would have expired, it reported.
On Tuesday, the L.A. city council voted 8-4 in favor of accepting the robot dog, which is unarmed but has surveillance technology. Members of the public spoke at the meeting, with most urging the council against taking up the offer, citing fears that the machine could violate resident’s civil rights, CBS LA reported.
Los Angeles councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez had previously said she had “grave concerns” about accepting the donation. She wasn’t present at the vote on Tuesday, according to ABC7.
NY to Repeal COVID Vaccine Mandate for Health Workers, AG Attorney Says in Appeals Court
New York health officials announced plans to repeal the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers just minutes before an appeals court was to hear oral arguments connected to a lawsuit challenging the mandate, an attorney said.
The striking development was disclosed inside the courtroom in Rochester, as an attorney for the Attorney General’s Office informed the panel of judges that state health officials would soon issue public statements regarding New York’s plan for repealing the vaccine mandate.
On Wednesday, Jonathan Hitsous, the Attorney General’s Office attorney representing the state, told judges that the vaccine mandate repeal would take effect immediately. But it remains unclear what role other key state health panels would play in the decision.
Previously, the state appeals court issued a stay that kept the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health workers in place during the ongoing court battle.
The mandate prompted about 34,000 medical workers, or 3% of the workforce at the time, to quit or be fired instead of getting the shots.
FTC Accuses Defunct Edtech Company Edmodo of Violating Kids’ Privacy
The Federal Trade Commission announced a proposed $6 million settlement with education technology company Edmodo Tuesday for collecting data from kids without parental consent and using it to sell ads in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
The case is unusual for several reasons, including the fact that Edmodo went out of business while the government was still investigating. The FTC is on a tear in recent months, upending the status quo and making an example out of companies to show that you can’t, in fact, just ignore what few privacy laws exist in the United States.
Edmodo was an education company serving 600,000 children, some kindergarten-age, in 2020 alone, the FTC says. It provided classroom resources and let teachers give out and collect assignments and quizzes using the platform, which meant students and parents often had no choice but to use it. It was also free, and, you guessed it, Edmodo made its money showing ads to all those little kid eyeballs, propped up by personal data including kids’ names, birthdays, ages, emails, and locations, according to the FTC.
Australian Authorities Made 4,000 Requests to Big Tech to Censor COVID Content
The Australian Home Affairs Department — normally responsible for dealing with terrorism and border security — made over 4,000 requests to U.S. tech giants to review COVID-19-related content during the pandemic years.
The revelations come after a Freedom of Information request from Senator Alex Antic and highlight the extent to which government authorities attempted to control public discourse around issues like vaccine efficacy, lockdowns, and mask mandates.
Between Jan. 1, 2017, to Dec. 15, 2022, the Home Affairs Department made 4,213 “COVID-19-related content referrals” to digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter to review content against their own terms of service — the height of the pandemic was from 2020 to 2021.
ChatGPT Maker OpenAI Calls for AI Regulation, Warning of ‘Existential Risk’
The leaders of OpenAI, the creator of viral chatbot ChatGPT, are calling for the regulation of “superintelligence” and artificial intelligence systems, suggesting an equivalent to the world’s nuclear watchdog would help reduce the “existential risk” posed by the technology.
In a statement published on the company website this week, co-founders Greg Brockman and Ilya Sutskever, as well as CEO Sam Altman, argued that an international regulator would eventually become necessary to “inspect systems, require audits, test for compliance with safety standards, (and) place restrictions on degrees of deployment and levels of security.”
Critics have warned against trusting calls for regulation from leaders in the tech industry who stand to profit off continuing development without restraints. Some say OpenAI’s business decisions contrast these safety warnings — as their rapid rollout has created an AI arms race, pressuring companies such as Google parent company Alphabet to release products while policymakers are still grappling with risks.
In his first congressional testimony last week, Altman issued warnings on how AI could “cause significant harm to the world,” while asserting that his company would continue to roll out the technology.
TikTok CEO Brushes Off Montana Ban: ‘We Are Confident That We Will Prevail’
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew on Tuesday brushed off Montana’s recent move to ban TikTok in the state, saying the company is “confident” it will “prevail” as it sues Montana over the new law.
“We believe that the Montana bill that was recently passed is simply unconstitutional,” Chew said in an interview with Bloomberg at the Qatar Economic Forum.
“We very recently filed a lawsuit to challenge this in the courts. And we are confident that we will prevail.”
Elon Musk Raises Concerns Over Advanced AI That ‘Eliminates or Constrains Humanity’s Growth’
Elon Musk again warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence in an interview on Tuesday. “There is a risk that advanced AI either eliminates or constrains humanity’s growth,” the billionaire said at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit, adding that the technology is a “double-edged sword” and compared it to a mythical genie.
“If you have a genie that can grant you everything that can also do anything, that necessarily presents a danger,” he continued.
Musk expects that the first government uses of AI to be in weapons technology. Musk also said the world is only three to six years away from artificial generative intelligence. “Arguably, we are on the event horizon of the black hole that is artificial superintelligence,” he said.
Google to Work With Europe on Stop-Gap ‘AI Pact’
Google’s Sundar Pichai has agreed to work with lawmakers in Europe on what’s being referred to as an “AI Pact” — seemingly a stop-gap set of voluntary rules or standards while formal regulations for applying AI are still being worked on.
Pichai was meeting with Thierry Breton, the European Union’s internal market commissioner, who put out a statement after today’s confab — saying: “There is no time to lose in the AI race to build a safe online environment.”
The memo added that the bloc wants to launch an AI Pact “involving all major European and non-European AI actors on a voluntary basis” ahead of the legal deadline of the aforementioned pan-EU AI Act.
However — at present — the only tech giant’s name that’s been publicly attached to the initiative is Google.