G42 CEO hits back at allegations UAE’s AI alliances expose it to geopolitical risk

Peng Xiao said safeguards are in place to protect the Abu Dhabi firm’s data from prying eyes, following a report on links to China by The New York Times

G42 CEO Peng Xiao shakes hands with Sam Altman, cofounder and CEO of OpenAI. (WAM)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – The head of Abu Dhabi’s artificial intelligence firm G42 responded to allegations that its customers in China expose the UAE to geopolitical risk, following a New York Times report that  the C.I.A. has been probing G42’s work with U.S.-sanctioned Chinese telecom giant Huawei and other customers. 

G42 CEO Peng Xiao said at an Abu Dhabi conference today that he did not read the Times article but “got the gist.” He said frameworks are in place to protect data privacy and data classification, and that the safety of its AI systems is “fairly well addressed” to prevent prying eyes, but did not go into specifics.

Referencing G42’s partnership with U.S. firm Cerebras Systems, which recently built the first of nine AI supercomputers in partnership with G42, he said, “when we ship our Arabic data to be trained on its supercomputers in California, there is no data leakage.” 

Peng, speaking at the Fortune Global Summit in Abu Dhabi, said challenges remain.

“When it gets to your customers hands is where you lose control. How they use it, you as a vendor cannot be held accountable,” he said.

The Mubadala-backed firm founded in 2018 is chaired by UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed, the Chairman of sovereign wealth funds ADQ and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, and younger brother of UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

“The ground zero for AI, some might debate, is China. It’s not. It’s Silicon Valley,” Ibrahim Ajami, head of ventures at Mubadala Capital said on Wednesday, speaking after Xiao at the same conference. 

Last month, G42 said it was working with OpenAI’s large-language models to build new products for clients in sectors where it is already active – financial services, energy and healthcare – and provide infrastructure capacity to support OpenAI’s local and regional inferencing on Microsoft Azure data centers. No financial details of the partnership were disclosed.

In 2020, G42 became the first UAE company to open an office in tech-heavy Israel after the Abraham Accords were signed. Within a year, it formed a joint venture with Israel’s state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to commercialize AI and big data technologies.

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