How States Are Legislating AI and Deepfakes with NCSL's Heather Morton

February 14, 2024 NASCIO Episode 113
How States Are Legislating AI and Deepfakes with NCSL's Heather Morton
More Info
How States Are Legislating AI and Deepfakes with NCSL's Heather Morton
Feb 14, 2024 Episode 113

Alex and Amy talk with Heather Morton, director of financial services, technology and communications at the National Conference of State Legislatures. We talk with Heather about trends in AI legislation, how states are legislating deepfakes and the surge in privacy bills. We also learn about Heather's first job. Hint: it involved Blizzards.

Find the transcript here:

Show Notes Transcript

Alex and Amy talk with Heather Morton, director of financial services, technology and communications at the National Conference of State Legislatures. We talk with Heather about trends in AI legislation, how states are legislating deepfakes and the surge in privacy bills. We also learn about Heather's first job. Hint: it involved Blizzards.

Find the transcript here:


Alex Whitaker, Heather Morton, Amy Glasscock


Amy Glasscock  00:05

Hi, and welcome to NASCIO voices where we talk all things state it. I'm Amy Glasscock in Lexington, Kentucky. And


Alex Whitaker  00:11

I'm Alex Whitaker in Washington, DC. Today we're talking about trends and State Technology legislation with Heather Morton, director of financial services, technology and communications with the National Conference of State Legislatures.


Amy Glasscock  00:23

We can't wait to talk with Heather about artificial intelligence, deep fakes and other trending technology topics for legislatures around the country. Heather, welcome to NASCIO voices and thanks so much for joining us.


Heather Morton  00:35

Thank you so much for having me.


Alex Whitaker  00:37

Yeah. Welcome, Heather. So before we get into our interview, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came into your role with NCSL. 


Heather Morton  00:44

Right. I direct the my team, which is the Financial Services technology and communications team at the National Conference of State Legislatures. We're a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and legislative staff in all 50 states, Commonwealth and territories. And in that, so I think it's probably kind of obvious from our department title. But so we cover banking and most insurance issues under technology, we cover cybersecurity and privacy and artificial intelligence. And then under communications, we cover issues like broadband and Robo calling and other telecommunications issues. Yeah, so we cover kind of a broad area, but it's great working out with all the legislators and legislative staff. 


Alex Whitaker  01:34

That's awesome. Well, I can just personally attest to how great NCSL is, we are always having your folks join us. So I always love reading the work that you all put out.


Heather Morton  01:44

Thanks. We love working with you guys too.


Alex Whitaker  01:47

Glad to head. But let's get right to the hot topic of the year, which is of course artificial intelligence. Before we talk about the current year, though, when you look back over the past year, how would you summarize what state legislatures' actions were on artificial intelligence in 2023?


Heather Morton  02:04

Yeah, absolutely. So I think state legislators have definitely taken an interest in artificial intelligence. And, you know, I saw at least, you know, I want to say at least 140 bills and resolutions that were introduced last year. And they were coming from, you know, more than like 25 states and Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. But I would say that, you know, of all the the bills that were introduced to the categories that sort of bubbled up to the top, I would say, one was, you know, the creating some kind of study on AI issues or like a taskforce or, you know, an advisory council or commission, or some kind of entity like that. You know, for example, you know, Louisiana adopted a resolution that requested they have a joint committee on technology and cybersecurity. And so they requested them to study the impact of artificial intelligence in the operations and procurement and policymaking. While at the same time last year, Texas created in an AI Advisory Council, the purpose for that is to study and monitor the artificial intelligence systems that are developed, or, you know, employed or procured by the Texas State agencies.  The other sort of category that I saw a lot of movement in was the focus on the use of artificial intelligence by government agencies and law enforcement. You know, for example, Connecticut, they enacted legislation that requires their their State Department of Administrative Services to conduct an inventory of all the systems that employ AI and that are being used by by a state agency, and then starting this year actually just started in February 1, that they have to do these ongoing assessments of the systems to make sure and to ensure that not the systems aren't resulting in any unlawful discrimination or disparate impact. Another example is California. They also enacted a bill last year that requires their state department of technology to create this comprehensive inventory of all the high risk automated decision systems that are being proposed or developed, or even being used and developed by the state agencies in California. 


Alex Whitaker  04:16

Lots of action. 


Heather Morton  04:18



Amy Glasscock  04:19

Yeah. And it seems like a lot of is kind of related to states getting their arms around and getting their heads around like what's already out there and being used so that they can start governing it in a little bit more of an organized way.


Heather Morton  04:31

And learning about it as well right yeah, no, because of course not you know, not everybody is what you know super well versed in technology and on top of it right this technology is developing very quickly and changing very quickly. So it you know, the study committees give the order these councils or you know, these advisory councils give legislators and sometimes their their broader than just legislators right that they have agency people appointed, so it gives them an opportunity to just to learn about the subject, yeah, absolutely.


Amy Glasscock  05:02

And so with generative AI, now we have this technology that is easily accessible to anyone. And you can create very realistic images, videos and realistic audio that can make it seem like a person did or said something that they didn't, you know, maybe you've seen the beautiful images that look like Trump and Biden are vacationing together in Vermont, and like cooking and crafting together and their sweaters. And so it's an election year, and I'm sure this is making anyone running for office really nervous. So are you seeing states introduce legislation to combat deep fakes? And if so, what are some of the proposed solutions?


Heather Morton  05:41

Absolutely. I would say deep fakes are definitely a concern for state legislators, you know, in terms of elections, right, people have always attempted to alter, you know, misrepresent media to, you know, to influence and then in an election, yeah, so this isn't in, in terms of the concept, it's nothing new, of course, the technology just makes it a lot easier to make them look much more realistic,


Amy Glasscock  06:05

You don't have to be good at Photoshop anymore!


Heather Morton  06:07

Exactly. But, you know, states are absolutely acting to address the concerns about election integrity, you know, so there are a whole category of bills that are focused specifically on elections. And, you know, they are putting in requirements that you have to have some kind of disclaimer, or disclosure statement to say that, in effect, right, that this image was created by artificial intelligence, or it's synthetic, something like that. And then they're also putting in place some, like time periods of when these provisions apply. So like something like 60 days before the election, or or maybe up to 90 days before the election, you know, but I would also say to that, you know, legislators, unfortunately, right, this deep fakes can be used in other ways, and are often used in other ways. And so separate from the elections, legislators are really concerned about the deep fakes for those, those non consensual, intimate images that are, you know, that are posted about people. And then also another area is the using synthetic, you know, these programs and synthetic media to create child pornography, which is not not a pleasant thing to have to think about, that this technology is being, you know, in a way that this technology being used.


Amy Glasscock  07:26

I've also heard of, you know, like, children's voices being copied. And then like, you know, calling the parent and making them think they've been kidnapped or something like that. 


Heather Morton  07:35

Right, yeah. Cuz these, you know, this technology, right. Can unfortunately, it can be used for fraud. 


Amy Glasscock  07:40



Heather Morton  07:40

You know, yeah, there's absolutely, you know, the, you know, you have the stories of the I think they're what they call it like virtual kidnapping. Yeah. But you also have sort of just like, sort of ongoing basic frauds, you know, the scams where they call a family member and say that, you know, like, Hey, I'm your nephew, and I just got arrested. And I need you to send gift cards. Yeah. To the police department to bail me out. Which, for anyone listening, police departments don't accept gift cards. That's a scam. 


Amy Glasscock  08:08

Yes! Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it's, it's crazy. And I guess, you know, of course, a campaign's not going to want to break the law. So they might comply with a watermark or, you know, something like that. But, you know, if, if you're just like, a bad actor, you don't really care what the laws are. So,


Heather Morton  08:26

This is true. Yeah, you know, it does require balance for the first amendment right, because people make these for parodies. They make them for, you know, for like comedians or whatever. 


Amy Glasscock  08:37

Just for fun, you know, a birthday card.


Alex Whitaker  08:40

Exactly. You know, Amy, I love your confidence that a campaign is not going to break the law. I might disagree, but But I love that you are pushing for that. So Heather, switch gears a little bit. I know, it seems like all anyone is talking about his AI right now. But what other trends are you seeing in technology related legislation?


Heather Morton  09:00

Well, of course, I think the issue that underlies all of this is, of course, privacy. You know, Congress has been trying to get legislation through and enacted for many years, and it hasn't happened. So states have really taken the lead on creating comprehensive data privacy laws. And I think we're up to I think we're up to 14 or 15. States. One just got, I think New Jersey just got signed this year. So I think I think we're up to 15. And of course, with artificial intelligence, right, it relies on data, right to feed the these large language models. So I think privacy, of course, continues, and it's, you know, expanding into Children's Online Privacy, it's expanding into health data privacy. And of course, for you guys, you know, and I think for your listeners for CIOs, right, another area, of course, is cybersecurity. We keep seeing ransomware attacks, we keep seeing agencies and schools and how hospitals getting attacked. And so states are very concerned about trying to put in security practices and requirements so that agencies can combat this and try to, you know, try to prevent, and what and you know, and can they prevent these attacks, because you don't want hospitals or agencies right to come to a screeching halt? Because all of their data and their systems are all completely locked up.


Alex Whitaker  10:23

Yeah, absolutely. Well, that's plenty of things to keep us busy over and over that the next year.


Heather Morton  10:28

 Absolutely. We hear. Yeah, there. There is a lot on the legislative agenda, a lot of issues that they have to that they have to address.


Amy Glasscock  10:36

 Yeah, we also talk a lot about privacy, and obviously, cybersecurity at NASCIO. And, you know, that role of the state chief privacy officer is continuing to grow across the states, and a lot of them are involved in setting the AI policies for the states, too. So it's interesting to see those two things converging right now.


Heather Morton  10:53

Right, and they absolutely overlap. And they started they weave together and they influence and even, you know, AI impacts cybersecurity as well. Yeah.


Amy Glasscock  11:02

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And even just like in the most simple level of like, you know, the phishing emails that you get are going to be written so much better now.


Heather Morton  11:12

Yeah. And it will be Yeah, exactly. And it can be much more challenging for consumers and for employees to figure out, right, because everybody always says, you know, like, Oh, look at the, you know, look at the email where it's coming from. And there's usually typos. Yeah. And with some of this technology, that although that's gonna go away, yeah. Right, that, yeah, so it's gonna be absolutely harder to identify, or your


Amy Glasscock  11:35

boss calls you with his supposedly real voice, you know, not your boss, but it's his voice and it's like, well, yeah, he asked me to, you know, give this bank account number or whatever it is. Yeah. Interesting. Okay, so, looking ahead for 2024. Do you have any predictions for the rest of the year, as far as technology related legislation goes or anything else that you might be tracking?


Heather Morton  11:58

Well, definitely. Of course, right. Artificial Intelligence, privacy, cybersecurity, I definitely see I'm already seeing more bills that are being introduced is particularly on the artificial intelligence. I think state state legislatures are looking at some of the, you know, the what was enacted last year. And, you know, we've got building off of those requirements to create those inventories of how agencies are using it. So like Alaska, and Florida, and Georgia, and New Mexico, and Oklahoma all have bills about, you know, creating some kind of inventory. And then, of course, I do think that the studies and the council's are artificially Commission's like all of that those are being introduced as well. And, you know, again, you know, Indiana and Oregon and Tennessee are looking at those bills. And the deep fakes. Absolutely. That is that is generating a large number of bills. And I think also, you know, looking at the more private sector use of AI, and, of course, responsible use of AI as well, there's a lot of bills about, you know, trying to require some use policies, putting those in place for state agencies as well. And on the private sector side is, you know, there are bills about addressing like the automated decision making, like in hiring and employment decisions, there are bills about those as well.


Alex Whitaker  13:20

Well, again, no, no shortage of rabbit holes to go down. But thank you so much for this insight. This has been really interesting. And I will know not to ever send gift cards to police to be able to get somone out....


Heather Morton  13:32

My public service message for the day.


Alex Whitaker  13:36

But we cannot let you go just yet until we ask you a few fun questions about your life outside of work and a segment that we call (thunder sound effect) the lightning round. All right, Amy, go ahead.


Amy Glasscock  13:48

All right. What is your favorite thing to do in the winter?



I think right now it's drinking hot chocolate with lots of whipped cream--keeping warm!


Alex Whitaker  14:01

So do you care who wins the Super Bowl this year? And if so, who do you want to win? 



Oh, this is tough. This is tough, you know as a Bronco fan, because NCSL is based in Denver. Our headquarters is there so I I really can't cheer for Kansas City, who's our division rival? I really wanted to be on I really wanted the Detroit Lions to go because they haven't been Yeah, so I yeah, I I think I'll be cheering for Usher.


Alex Whitaker  14:31

Okay, I just want Taylor to have fun. That's all. 


Heather Morton  14:34

Exactly, exactly. Yeah. See what you know, sort of that, you know, figure out when she arrives, right, because she's got that concert. 


Alex Whitaker  14:42

Uh, huh, yeah, yeah, Amy knows all about that. Amy's a Swifty 


Amy Glasscock  14:45

Oh, yeah. Oh,


Heather Morton  14:46

there you go. Yes,


Amy Glasscock  14:47

I'm there for Taylor and the buffalo chicken dip. So well. Oh, yeah. Good time. We'll


Heather Morton  14:52

get guacamole. Guacamole. All right. And


Amy Glasscock  14:55

then final question. What was your first job


Heather Morton  15:00

I worked at Dairy Queen in high school. So I used to know how to make the ice cream cones and have the little twirl on the end.


Amy Glasscock  15:09

And did you hold the blizzards upside down? 


Heather Morton  15:13

Yes. I was gonna say I will say that depended on what the ingredients were some were a little more successful than others. Weren't there used to be a banana split one. And that one was a little, maybe a little bit more liquidy than like the, you know, the Oreo cookie one.


Amy Glasscock  15:29

Oh, so did you not turn that one upside down? Or were there just like, disasters all the time?


Heather Morton  15:35

I tried really hard not to Yeah, thankfully, you know, some of the cookie ones. And we had like a butter finger one those sometimes you had to be careful, because with the mixing machine, it would cut the cup. And so you'd have like cookie bits coming out the sides of the cup. So you know, for our first job in high school. It was pretty fun. 


Amy Glasscock  15:53

That's pretty cool.


Alex Whitaker  15:54

I want to go to Dairy Queen. It's been a while. 


Amy Glasscock  15:58

Anyone listening in the car will just be like turning to the next Dairy Queen. 


Heather Morton  16:02

Exactly. Exactly. 


Amy Glasscock  16:04

All right. Well, thanks again, Heather, for joining us today. I know all the legislators are keeping you busy right now. So we really appreciate your time.


Heather Morton  16:12

Yeah, thank you so much for having me. And, you know, we have a lot of working relationship with NASCIO. And we really appreciate it when we have meetings and we invite your members to come and present to our members, we really appreciate that that people are willing to to participate and share their expertise with us.


Amy Glasscock  16:30

Absolutely. Well, you guys are an important partner for us too. And we're always happy to help whenever we can. Absolutely. Thanks.


Heather Morton  16:37

Thank you.


Alex Whitaker  16:39

Thanks again for listening to NASCIO voices. NASCIO Voices is production of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. 


Amy Glasscock  16:46

Mark your calendars for our Midyear Conference in National Harbor from April 28 to May 1. Registration opens on March 5. 


Alex Whitaker  16:54

And we'll be back in two weeks with an interview with Nevada CIO Timothy Galluzi. Talk with you then. [Blooper beep] And I think I pronounced it the way that they hate when you pronounce Nevada too...


Amy Glasscock  17:09

I think you said it right. I think they like Oh wait, no, you didn't. It's Nevada, Nevada. We gotta get that right for his episode....Nevada. [Blooper beep]