Quantum Technology Gains Federal Lawmakers’ Attention

While Artificial Intelligence (AI) has primarily taken the spotlight when it comes to technology policy debates across federal and state legislatures, another emerging technology, quantum computing, has quickly gained the attention of federal policymakers this Congress.

Quantum computing is a rapidly advancing technology that can solve computationally hard problems potentially faster than purely classical computing. Quantum computing technologies available today are helping businesses and governments address optimization challenges such as logistics and supply chain management, transportation and autonomous vehicle routing, and emergency response.

While the National Institute of Standards and Technology is currently working on standards to migrate to post-quantum cryptography to protect data, Congress is exploring the benefits of quantum computing. As a result, there is growing bipartisan support among lawmakers to incorporate today’s near-term quantum technologies, which are commercially available, to solve public sector problems. A number of bills have been introduced encouraging the use of today’s quantum technologies and developing quantum applications. For example, legislation utilizing quantum technologies to help optimize emergency response during wildfires and a new law establishing a quantum pilot program within the Department of Defense to address problems facing our nation’s military and defense systems.

As Congress resumes in the new year, reauthorization of the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQI) will be a focus for Members of Congress as the NQI, which was signed into law in 2018, expired in September 2023.

The first of its kind, the 2018 NQI called for a coordinated federal program to accelerate quantum research and development for the economic and national security of the U.S. as other world leaders, like Japan, the U.K., Australia, and Germany, invest in and expand their use of quantum technologies. Late last year, bipartisan leaders in the House Science Committee advanced legislation to reauthorize and expand the NQI program to help close the gap between the U.S. and other countries. The bill passed out of the House Science Committee late last year and now awaits action on the House floor, but introduction of legislation and timing in the Senate is still unknown.

While the must-pass NQI reauthorization remains on hold, bipartisan support for legislation supporting the development of near-term quantum applications to solve challenging public-sector problems continues to grow.  But as we’ve seen in recent years, Congress continues to race against time to catch up legislatively to rapidly advancing technology fields – whether it’s AI, quantum, or other emerging technologies.

The Political Shift Away from Mainstream Media

For the past three decades, mainstream media outlets such as CNN, Fox News and NBC News dominated the political media landscape, while social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube provided a complementary channel for politicians and pundits to connect directly with voters and viewers. Now, there’s a rising trend to bypass mainstream media in favor of breaking news directly on social media, as digital platforms have become a go-to source for news and information for companies.
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Framework for Privacy Legislation

Privacy is en vogue. Policymakers from Washington, D.C. to Washington state are talking about it. To protect consumers, state lawmakers crafting or reviewing privacy legislation should keep several things in mind.

Information generated by or about individuals has become a key driver for the American economy. As a result, much of the proposed and enacted legislation focuses on corporate behavior—what corporations must do to collect and use data—rather than on solving any “privacy problem.” While most state proposals make it more difficult to collect and use information, they are not complete bars to the use and collection of data.

State lawmakers should be wary of proposals that do little other than restrict the flow of information, constrict the online marketplace, and ensconce incumbent platforms. These types of proposals – and many existing “privacy” laws – fail to answer one essential question: What consumer harms are policymakers trying to prevent or protect against?

Policymakers need to understand what “privacy” really is and define the “problems” they are trying to solve. In doing so, policymakers should be guided by traditional American understandings of privacy and know how regulations may impact the economy. To avoid creating a confusing patchwork of state privacy laws, lawmakers should be cognizant of what other states are proposing.

While no easy task, policymakers should endeavor to protect consumers from actual, concrete harm while allowing the greatest flexibility for innovators and the private sector. Their decisions have the potential to disrupt innovation and the flow of information or to encourage innovation by providing guardrails and regulatory certainty.

A single, federal standard preempting state privacy laws could provide such certainty, but the federal government is unlikely to pass anything soon. Because of this inability to act, state privacy legislation will continue to impact America’s innovation economy. For lawmakers interested in learning more, the American Legislative Exchange Council’s recent publication, A Framework for Privacy Legislation, will serve as an invaluable resource.

Jonathon Paul Hauenschild, Director for the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Task Force on Communications and Technology and the author of ALEC’s recently released Framework for Privacy Legislation