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December 29, 2022updated 18 Apr 2023 11:10am

US ramps up China semiconductor sanctions – October 2022 in review

Chipmakers in China - and the US - felt the force of sanctions, as the ICO warned about the perils of emotion-analysing AI.

By Matthew Gooding

Looking back at October, we see the US government began to try and squeeze Chinese chip companies with increasingly tough controls.

Donald Trump may be ancient history (we hope), but his trade war with China lives on through current incumbent of the White House, Joe Biden.

October saw Joe Biden’s US government step up export controls on Chinese semiconductor companies. New restrictions were put in place to stop Chinese companies buying advanced chips made in the US, as well as the kinds of equipment Chinese foundries need to design their own. The sanctions have been put in place to try and maintain US tech supremacy and limit China’s ability to develop advanced artificial intelligence and quantum computing systems.

US President Joe Biden wants to keep all his chips close at hand. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Elsewhere, US businesses were banned from selling Chinese customers the machines used in the production of sub-14 nanometer semiconductors, the same used to make the world’s most advanced chips. Additionally, any business with operations in the US is now banned from exporting any chipmaking equipment to Chinese customers that cannot be provided by foreign competitors.

The sanctions impact a host of key companies in the chip supply chain. Lam Research, Applied Materials and KLA Corporation are taking steps to comply with the rules, while US vendors AMD and Nvidia had previously been instructed not to sell AI chips to China or face government action. Elsewhere, US tech companies including Dell and HPE, which offer servers with advanced chips in them to Chinese clients, could be impacted. Nvidia would later come up with GPUs designed specifically for the Chinese market to avoid the controls.

So while the sanctions make sense geopolitically, the China semiconductor restrictions are likely to hit many US businesses in the pocket. “The semiconductor industry relies on both US IP and the Chinese chip market, and the US chip industry derives over 30% of its revenues from its China sales,” said GlobalData analyst Mike Orme. “A further blockading of China would threaten the future of the US chip companies. This is the serious conundrum facing the industry – in hurting China to protect its sovereignty, the US will hurt its most important strategic industry.”

Don’t buy emotion-analysing AI, ICO warns tech leaders

Advances in AI have been myriad throughout 2022, but detecting emotions remains beyond of its capabilities, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

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The ICO warned companies to avoid buying emotion analysing artificial intelligence tools as it is unlikely the technology will ever work and could lead to bias and discrimination. Businesses that do deploy the technology could face swift action from the data regulator unless they can prove its effectiveness.

Emotional analysis technologies take in a number of biometric data points including gaze tracking, sentiment analysis, facial movements, gait analysis, heartbeats, facial expressions and skin moisture levels and attempt to use the data to determine or predict someone’s emotional state.

But there’s a problem. Deputy information commissioner Stephen Bonner told Tech Monitor “there is no evidence this actually works and a lot of evidence it will never work.”

Bonner went on to say that the bar for a company being investigated if it does implement emotional analysis AI will be “very low” due to the warnings being issued now.

“There are times where new technologies are being rolled out and we’re like, ‘let’s wait and see and gain a sense of understanding from both sides’ and for other legitimate biometrics we are absolutely doing that,” he said. But in the case of emotional AI, he adds that there is “no legitimate evidence this technology can work.”

More from October 2022: Will new PM Rishi Sunak keep ‘tech superpower’ promise?

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