Help wanted: Regulators worldwide need tech expertise

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As economies continue to digitize, governments say they need more technological expertise to evaluate companies and technology, as well as detect problems.

Competition and consumer agencies in governments worldwide say they need to integrate more tech expertise into their enforcement work to detect consumer harms, reduce information asymmetries and conduct better and faster investigations. 

The Federal Trade Commission released a joint statement with 24 international partners about the importance of tech capacity in enforcement and regulatory agencies on Tuesday. As economies continue to digitize, governments need more technological expertise to evaluate companies and technology, as well as detect problems, the statement says. 

In Washington, D.C., several government agencies also made accompanying commitments and statements about their technology work and teams.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released new goals to embed more technologies across its core functions and do research on emerging technologies.

"From cracking down on data abuses and shoddy AI to tracking Big Tech’s movement into financial services, technology is fundamental to the CFPB’s work,” said Director Rohit Chopra in a statement. “Our technologists help the agency enforce existing laws and track emerging risks to consumers.”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which already has its eye on artificial intelligence in the workplace, says that it intends to build more tech skills into its work and enforcement processes. 

The Federal Communications Commission also announced ongoing initiatives to strengthen its law enforcement efforts with more tech expertise, noting that since establishing a task force in 2023, it has more than doubled the number of staff working on enforcement investigations into privacy and data protection.

The National Labor Relations Board also put out a statement on the importance of building tech into its work and working with other agencies to share best practices; the California Privacy Protection Agency also committed to an accelerated recruitment and hiring effort for open positions; and the U.S. Census Bureau put out a statement on its ongoing modernization efforts

“Now is a critical moment for law enforcers and regulators to commit to bolstering internal technology expertise,” a Tuesday FTC report said of its own experiences building out its Office of Technology. 

FTC founded that office in 2023 to strengthen law enforcement actions, advise staff on policy and research and highlight market trends and emerging tech impacting the FTC.  

There is a “growing need,” the report states, “for technical capacity not just to build and design technology products and services, but also to help strengthen and support government agencies’ missions through policy and law enforcement.”