Clear warnings from Congress: Microsoft’s planned technology transfer to the United Arab Emirates could endanger US national security.

The tech giant Microsoft is heading towards a possible technology transfer to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As top executive Brad Smith confirmed to Reuters, a deal with UAE-backed AI firm G42 could eventually lead to the shift of advanced chips and tools. This unprecedented move was cited by a senior Republican congressman as a potential threat to U.S. national security.

Smith told Reuters that the sale agreement, details of which are being reported for the first time, could move to a second phase. This would include the export of crucial components of AI technology, such as model weights. Model weights are at the heart of AI systems that determine their performance. However, according to Smith, there is not yet a fixed schedule for the second phase.

The U.S. government has repeatedly highlighted potential dangers posed by AI systems, particularly in relation to facilitating the production of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. In this context, the Biden administration called on manufacturers of large AI systems in October to provide details about these systems to the US government.

The approval of the US Department of Commerce would be required for the agreement to proceed. Microsoft executives asserted that the agreement contains safeguards to protect Microsoft technology. There are also safeguards to prevent Chinese actors from optimizing the AI ​​systems for their purposes. These measures are not yet publicly known and some US authorities question whether they provide enough protection.

Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed his concerns to Reuters. He said: “I am concerned that the necessary safeguards are not in place to protect sensitive technology of US origin from Chinese espionage.” This is “given the (Chinese Communist Party’s) interest in the UAE.”