Experts tell lawmakers AI could streamline Florida’s bureaucracy or open it to security threats
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Cybersecurity chip
Depending who deploys the technology, it will probably do both.

Artificial intelligence could soon map Florida roads, analyze public health data and deliver customer service to taxpayers. But could it also be used to hack elections?

AI experts testified to House members that AI could deliver huge impacts that could both ease bureaucracy and impact state workers.

“Integration of AI stands to revolutionize the public sector at unprecedented rates,” said Brian Fonseca, a public policy professor at Florida International University.

It also brings a series of challenges. At a hearing of the House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, a panel of experts discussed both AI and cybersecurity.

Rep. Ryan Chamberlin, a Belleview Republican, asked how those fields intersect, and if AI would provide tools to bad actors. “Has irresponsible AI contributed to cybersecurity problems? And has our cybersecurity program, the faster this develops, is it developing equally faster and faster?” he asked.

Panelists in short said yes, that could happen. But they stressed AI was a tool in the marketplace that could be used for good or ill. The technology can also help the state deal with threats as well.

“If I make a hammer, they’re going to take a hammer to build a house or take a hammer and break into a bank,” David Clark, Chair of the Florida Technology Foundation, told Florida Politics.

Cybersecurity experts said they remain on high alert to protect all state technology infrastructure from evolving hacking threats. State Inspectors General will also push state and local governments to have the best technology in place to counter hackers.

Officials anticipate particular threats to elections infrastructure during a Presidential Election year. Could AI help foreign actors hacking into voter registration records or voting machines? Melinda Miguel, Florida Chief Inspector General, acknowledged that it could. “But we will invest in rigorous technology to see that that doesn’t happen,” she said.

Fonseca described the concern of “adversarial AI,” a potential future security conflict pitting machines against machines to safeguard the public interest.

Technology advances will also improve state service offerings as well, officials testified. Already, the Department of Revenue has deployed a bot called DORA (Department of Revenue Answers), which responds to digital prompts to help citizens navigate child support systems. The AI-driven customer service could be deployed across other platforms, and similar efforts could be developed for other state agencies as well.

Rep. Jeff Holcomb, a Spring Hill Republican, raised his own concerns about bias in the work of AI. He suggested Google had done as much during the COVID-19 pandemic, with its algorithm favoring certain research on mask effectiveness and censoring contradictory opinions.

So will AI tools to analyze data be developed that tries to maintain policy objectivity? Will there soon be AI products analyzing data from a conservative or a liberal point of view?

Clerk told Florida Politics that’s unpredictable, not because of the technology but thanks to the humans behind the keyboards.

“You’re asking me to predict human behavior,” Clark told Florida Politics. “Who trains the AI? Humans.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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