The Federal Communications Commission voted today to start looking at the positive and negative impacts of artificial intelligence technology on illegal robocalls and texts.
AI technology is becoming more prevalent, and the rise in usage comes unique opportunities to protect consumers. However, it poses a significant risk to privacy and safety concerns. While AI analytic tools can block unwanted calls and texts, they could also grant malicious actors an easier way to defraud consumers, such as using voice-mimicking technology to impersonate public officials or other trusted sources. Scammers have a history of utilizing new technology to get around law enforcement and government agencies.
The Notice of Inquiry adopted by the FCC on Wednesday will gather information on AI technology’s role in protecting and defrauding consumers. The FCC will use the data collected to prepare changes in calling and texting practices necessary to protect consumers from AI-influenced technology.
The FCC commissioners, led by Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, unanimously approved the study.
“AI is a real opportunity for communications to become more efficient, more impactful, and more resilient,” Rosenworcel said. “While we are aware of the challenges AI can present, there is also significant potential to use this technology to benefit communications networks and their customers – including in the fight against junk robocalls and robotexts. We need to address these opportunities and risks thoughtfully, and the effort we are launching today will help us gain more insight on both fronts.”
For instance, the FCC is seeking comment on how to define AI in the context of robocalls and robotexts, the current use of AI in calling and texting, the impact of emerging AI technologies on consumer privacy rights under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and what steps the commission needs to take to address such issues.
The inquiry is part of the FCC’s broader investigation into the opportunities and challenges that can arise from the expanded use of AI and machine learning in communications networks to help them become more efficient and resilient to emerging technologies. It’s also part of a larger government effort to suss out the role of AI, with President Joe Biden laying out a set of safeguards in an executive order last month.
The FCC takes matters of fraud seriously and is cracking down on all sources. However, the increase in AI technology adds a wealth of challenges to this goal. To educate people on this tech’s usefulness and pitfalls, the FCC partnered with the National Science Foundation to host The Opportunities and Challenges of Artificial Intelligence for Communications Networks and Consumers workshop.
The Commission’s Technological Advisory Council is also studying the issues to better advise the agency on AI and machine learning. Additionally, the FCC launched a spectrum sharing proceeding to explore how leveraging technologies like AI to understand non-federal spectrum usage and draw insights from large, complex datasets that can help facilitate more efficient spectrum use.