Lawmakers in 2024 will maintain their commitment to protecting consumer privacy and expanding access to high-speed internet. But a new concern—artificial intelligence—is demanding their attention.
With technology often racing ahead of lawmakers’ ability to respond, legislatures are grappling with the implications—positive and negative—of this powerful new technology.
NCSL Forecast ’24
This special report from State Legislatures News covers the topics NCSL’s policy experts anticipate will occupy state lawmakers’ time in 2024 legislative sessions. Read the full report here.
Hot Topic: Making Sense of Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence—the development of computer systems to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as learning and decision-making—has the potential to spur innovation and transform industry and government. As the technology advances, more products and services are coming onto the market, with companies using AI to run home security systems, smoke alarms and other appliances, and to help the elderly to stay in their homes longer. The benefits of AI are apparent in emerging health care technologies, self-driving cars, digital assistants and many other areas of daily life.
But this powerful technology is not without risks. National security concerns have arisen as countries such as China, Russia and North Korea are increasing investments in AI, threatening our critical cybernetworks and making AI-controlled warfare, with little to no human decision-making, a sobering possibility.
Another matter is the increasing use of generative AI technology, such as Google Bard and ChatGPT, which uses algorithms to create new audio, video, photographs, text and other content. The technology raises issues of accuracy and bias in generated educational content, the use of disinformation and misinformation, copyright and intellectual property infringement, and the vulnerability of employment and financial services, to name but a few. Few technologies have been as widely or quickly adopted as generative AI without a full understanding of the risks.
ACTION: Fifteen states and Puerto Rico adopted resolutions or enacted legislation last year creating task forces or commissions to study and inventory state government use of AI.
Hot Topic: Protecting Consumer Privacy
State legislatures have long been involved in regulating the security of various types of information and of specific industry sectors. But the internet and new technologies continually raise new questions about consumer privacy, and lawmakers by protecting Social Security numbers and student, medical and financial information.
ACTION: At least 40 states and Puerto Rico introduced or considered at least 350 consumer privacy bills in 2023.
Comprehensive (also called omnibus) consumer privacy legislation was the most common type of bill being considered—more than 60 bills in at least 25 states. These measures generally regulate the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by businesses and provide an express set of consumer rights for collected data, such as the right to access, correct and delete personal information gathered by businesses. In 2023, eight states enacted comprehensive legislation, bringing the number of states with such laws to 13: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.
Federal legislation, if enacted, may affect existing state laws and states’ ability to enforce privacy protections.
Other common consumer privacy measures concern the collection of data from consumers by commercial entities, online services or commercial websites, including bills related to children’s privacy on the internet, direct-to-consumer genetic testing, health data privacy, and the regulation of internet service providers and information/data brokers.
Hot Topic: Deploying Broadband
With roughly 9 in 10 American adults using the internet, many consider it to be a necessity of modern life. Because access to the internet is unavailable or inadequate in parts of the country, states and the federal government are focusing on deploying broadband—the technologies that allow internet data to be reliably transmitted at high speeds—as universally as possible.
The Biden administration’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program provides $42.5 billion to help states and territories plan and deploy high-speed internet. As of October, at least 41 eligible entities had publicly shared their five-year BEAD plans with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which oversees the program. Funding allocations for the states, Washington, D.C., and the territories, as well as the five-year plans, can be viewed at internetforall.gov.
ACTION: In the 2023 legislative session, at least 49 states or territories have pending or enacted legislation addressing broadband funding, governance authorities such as state broadband offices and commissions, educational institutions, infrastructure, municipal-run broadband networks, digital equity, rural and underserved communities, and taxes.