1. Session 1 - A public talk and Q&A by Signal President Meredith Whittaker, followed by Q&A with the Signal team including Joshua Lund (Senior Director); moderated by Kiran Jonnalagadda
The tech ecosystem we have now is shaped by concentrated power. The natural monopolies of the telecommunications sectors were not, in fact, disrupted when networked computation was commercialized, and the internet took shape in the late 1990s. Big Tech simply replicated this monopolistic form, acquiring data and infrastructural monopolies via the surveillance business model, which incentivized mass surveillance and profiling, and the growth-at-all-costs mindset that got us where we are today.
This concentrated tech power resides in the hands of a handful of corporations–Big Tech – which are based in the US and China. And as they extend their reach and authority on the wings of the current AI hype, they are shaping an ecosystem that is increasingly hostile to new entrants and small players. Indeed, most startups or small tech endeavors must–in order to function–license infrastructures and use frameworks and libraries controlled and shaped by these large companies.
So how can Signal and others fighting against the mass surveillance of this industry sustain and grow in this environment? Join Signal President and AI scholar Meredith Whittaker, and members of the Signal team to discuss how Signal is pushing back against the conjoined threats of mass surveillance and enhanced social control that the AI hype wave, and how
2. AI: Beyond the hype cycle - Vidushi Marda chairs a panel discussion with Meredith Whittaker (Signal), Amba Kak (AI Now), and Udbhav Tiwari (Mozilla)
In the aftermath of chatGPT-fueled AI hype, there’s an equally charged conversation on how the public and governments should respond to present (and future) harms related to these technologies. It’s a crowded space – with AI industry voices and existential risk (x-risk) doomers trying to shape the narrative on regulation alongside civil society advocates and government agencies.
With many combined decades of experience critiquing and working within the tech industry, Meredith Whittaker, Amba Kak, Udbhav Tiwari, and Vidushi Marda will share their insights and perspectives on the current AI hype wave and the related policy landscape, with a particular focus on the threats this poses to privacy, and the ways that the dominant narratives are getting AI wrong.
- Meredith Whittaker
Meredith Whittaker is Signal’s President and a member of the Signal Foundation Board of Directors. She is also a scholar of AI and the tech industry responsible for it, and the cofounder and Chief Advisor to the AI Now Institute.
She has over 17 years of experience in tech, spanning industry, academia, and government. Before joining Signal as President, she was the Minderoo Research Professor at NYU, and served as the Faculty Director of the AI Now Institute which she co-founded. Her research and scholarly work helped shape global AI policy and shift the public narrative on AI to better recognize the surveillance business practices and concentration of industrial resources that modern AI requires. Prior to NYU, she worked at Google for over a decade, where she led product and engineering teams, founded Google’s Open Research Group, and co-founded M-Lab, a globally distributed network measurement platform that now provides the world’s largest source of open data on internet performance. She also helped lead organizing at Google. She was one of the core organizers pushing back against the company’s insufficient response to concerns about AI and its harms, and was a central organizer of the Google Walkout. She has advised the White House, the FCC, the City of New York, the European Parliament, and many other governments and civil society organizations on privacy, security, artificial intelligence, internet policy, and measurement. And she recently completed a term as Senior Advisor on AI to the Chair at the US Federal Trade Commission.
- Amba Kak
Amba Kak is a technology policy strategist and researcher with over a decade of experience working in multiple regions and roles across government, academia, the tech industry, and the nonprofit sector. Amba is currently the Executive Director of the AI Now Institute, a New York based policy research center focused on artificial intelligence; on the Board of Directors of the Signal Foundation; and on the Program Committee of the Board of Directors of the Mozilla Foundation.
Amba recently completed a term serving as a Senior Advisor on AI at the Federal Trade Commission, the key US federal competition, privacy, and consumer protection regulator; and is a Senior Research Scientist at the Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute at Northeastern University. Trained as a lawyer, Amba received her BA LLB (Hons) from the National University of Juridical Sciences in India. She has a Masters in Law (BCL) and an MSc in the Social Science of the Internet at the University of Oxford, which she attended as a Rhodes Scholar.
- Vidushi Marda
Vidushi is an independent lawyer working on technology regulation, asymmetric power relations and fundamental rights to advance social justice. She is the co-Executive Director of REAL ML, a non-profit organization that translates algorithmic accountability research into impactful interventions that benefit the public interest.
Marda’s work engages with technical, legal, academic and advocacy communities. She has produced pioneering research on machine learning particularly in non-Western jurisdictions, including India, China and Myanmar. She is actively involved in advocacy efforts at the EU level vis-a-vis the EU AI Act, and is a regular contributor to United Nations resolutions on privacy, freedom of expression and digital technologies. Her work has been presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council, where she has held training sessions for diplomats ahead of resolution negotiations. Marda also actively engages with technical communities at standardisation bodies like the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and research venues the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).
Marda’s work has been cited by the Supreme Court of India in a historic ruling on the Right to Privacy, the United Kingdom House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, among others.
- Kiran Jonnalagadda
Kiran Jonnalagadda is a tech enthusiast and community builder, passionate about technology and its societal impact. He co-founded Hasgeek in 2010, where he has created a space for technologists to thrive, share knowledge, and network.
With a background spanning tech policy, community development, open source initiatives, and more, Kiran is also a researcher and writer. He was previously with the Internet Freedom Foundation as a Trustee, Program Manager for Comat Technologies’ Go Rural initiative, and Researcher at the Centre for Internet and Society. He has been actively involved in the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement as well as the SaveTheInternet.in movement for net neutrality in India.
- Udbhav Tiwari
Udbhav Tiwari is the Head of Global Product Policy at Mozilla, where he focuses on cybersecurity, AI, and connectivity. He was previously with the public policy team at Google, was a Non-Resident Scholar with Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, India and was a program manager at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) in India. He is also a former member of the Advisory Council at the Digital Equity Accelerator run by the Aspen Institute.
Udbhav has been a co-rapporteur at the International Standards Organisation (ISO) and participated actively at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) work on Ethically Aligned Design (EAD). He has been quoted as an expert in various international and domestic outlets, including The Financial Times, The Guardian, Wired UK, BBC, Reuters, and the Times of India. He has also written for prominent publications in India, including the Indian Express and Business Standard, and a part of India Today’s ‘India Tomorrow’ list in 2020.
- How can startups and small tech endeavors navigate the tech ecosystem that Big Tech continues to shape and control?
- Learnings from how Signal is pushing back against the conjoined threats of mass surveillance and enhanced social control that the AI hype wave.
- What are the various harms related to AI technologies and how should the public and governments respond to them?
- What does the AI policy landscape currently look like and how is it being shaped on a global scale?
- What are the dominant narratives around the AI hype and what are they getting wrong?
- Public interest technologists
- Engineers and open source developers who care about privacy.
- Founding teams from start-ups and series A companies who have questions about business models.
- Technology leaders - to understand the current context of AI and privacy, and emerging trends.
- Policy professionals working on tech/AI policy
- Human rights advocates interested in the intersection of technology and rights