Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionized our lifestyles, our work, and how we engage with the word. From virtual assistants to self-driving cars, AI technologies have revolutionized almost every aspect of human life. While AI has made our lives more comfortable and convenient, it also poses a significant risk to our privacy. The unchecked use of AI technologies could lead to a severe breach of our personal data, putting individuals and organizations at risk.
Privacy risks can arise in numerous ways, including data breaches, unauthorized access, misuse of data, intentional or unintentional bias and lack of transparency. Additionally, the pace of AI development is so rapid that regulations often lag behind, leaving companies with little guidance on how to protect personal data. This makes it essential for companies to consider the ethical and legal implications of AI technologies and opens the discussion concerning the importance of accountability, robust implementation of data protection measures, and cybersecurity safeguards.
How is AI collecting and using personal data?
As AI software becomes more advanced and intertwined with our lives, the types of personal data that these systems can collect are expanding rapidly. You might not even realize just how much data AI systems are gathering about you as you go about your day.
For years now, we have provided intelligent software apps via our phones, computers, smart speakers, and virtual assistants with a myriad of knowledge; and the list keeps growing - our biometric data such as fingerprints and faces, internet browsing history, health data, personal and work contact details, financial information, shopping preferences and patterns, our comments, likes, dislikes, and even everyday life events such as birthdays, weddings, and vacations.
Our personal data, comprising various sensitive types, collectively creates a comprehensive profile of our identity and interests, which can be unsettling to some degree as we entrust our information to unpredictable and unregulated entities.
Examples of how AI collects data and process data
AI technologies collect and process an enormous amount of different types of data including personal information, from facial and voice recognition to web activities, and location data. While AI has numerous uses, it also presents several privacy challenges and risks.
- Social media: AI can use highly trained decision-making algorithms on social media platforms, such as Facebook and TikTok, or messaging apps such as Snapchat, to collect and analyze users' behavior, interests, and preferences and to offer highly personalized and targeted content and advertisements. Left unchecked, AI can perpetuate biases, amplify harmful content, and spread manipulated content such as deepfake videos. This can lead to the spread of misinformation, discrimination, and harm to individuals and society.
- Facial recognition technology: This technology is used in a wide range of applications, from security to law enforcement, or even marketing, and helps detect the presence and the looks of individuals. AI systems capture images and videos, process them to extract facial features to create digital representations of faces that can be used to generate comparisons, identifications, or verifications. There are privacy concerns associated with the collection, use and processing of this data.
- Location tracking: AI collects location data through GPS, Wi-Fi, and cellular signals for various purposes, including personalization and business needs. However, the dangers of location tracking lie in the potential misuse of this data. For instance, companies could use location data to infer sensitive personal information such as political affiliation, religious beliefs, and other compromising sensitive information that can lead to identity theft or other potential dangers.
What are the privacy risks of AI?
As we delve deeper into the world of artificial intelligence, there is no denying the potential benefits it can bring to our lives. However, as the use of AI becomes more widespread, many experts have raised concerns about the privacy risks associated with it. Some of which include:
- Unintentional bias: AI systems can exhibit bias based on the data on which they are trained. If the data is biased, the AI system will also be biased, leading to unfair or discriminatory outcomes.
- Inaccurate predictions: AI systems can make inaccurate predictions, which can have serious consequences in fields such as healthcare or finance. For example, if an AI system predicts that a patient is at low risk for a disease when they are actually at high risk, this could result in a missed diagnosis and delayed treatment.
- Unauthorized access to personal data: AI systems often require access to personal data in order to function. If this data is not properly secured, it can be accessed by unauthorized individuals or organizations, leading to privacy violations including identity theft.
- Unforeseen consequences: With machine learning becoming more complex, advanced, and automated, there is a risk that unforeseen consequences could arise. For example, an AI system used in a transportation system could inadvertently cause accidents or disruptions.
- Job displacement: As AI systems become more capable, there is a growing concern that it may cause an upheaval in the job market by outpacing human training and displacing workers. Unemployment rates may rise, and our economy could face significant disruption as a result.
Mitigating Privacy Risks of AI
What can companies do to mitigate AI privacy risks? A couple of things to consider, they need to implement robust data protection policies that secure customer data. This involves employing stringent encryption methods, conducting regular vulnerability assessments, and implementing strict access controls to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data. Additionally, companies need to adopt a privacy-by-design approach, ensuring that privacy considerations are baked into the design and development of AI technologies from the beginning.
Here are some other key considerations that should be examined further, and that could use more research, guidance, and points of discussion:
Data minimization is a critical aspect of ensuring that only relevant data is used by an AI system, preventing it from accessing and processing any misuse of non-essential personal information.
Companies should aim to provide at least one form of encryption defense against malicious sources that aim to steal confidential information that is being processed by AI systems.
Transparent data use policies
Developing documentation and policies that clearly state how the AI technologies use personal data. Organizations in general could benefit from open and honest discussions on the distinct roles and goals of using such information. Everyone will have a better understanding of how the technology works, and perhaps help set up the needed best practices for using such data.
Auditing and monitoring AI systems
Regularly making checks and balances to detect any discrepancies due to untrustworthy actions from internal or external sources and making sure this kind of events do not get overlooked.
Training AI to avoid biases could possibly be done in several ways. One strategy is to ensure that the data used to train the AI system is diverse and representative of the population it will be serving. This can involve collecting data from different sources and including a broad range of demographic groups. Additionally, AI systems can be designed to be transparent, so that users can understand how the system is making decisions and whether there is any bias present.
Another approach is to incorporate fairness metrics into the development of AI systems, which can help identify and address any potential biases, although systems like this can still have some issues. Finally, ongoing monitoring and evaluation of AI can help to identify and address any biases that may emerge over time.
The role of transparency and accountability in developing and deploying AI
Artificial Intelligence technologies have transformed the way businesses operate, offering companies new levels of connectivity, efficiency, and convenience. However, the privacy risks of AI must not be ignored. As AI technologies become more advanced, so do the privacy risks they pose. Organizations must take a proactive approach to mitigate these emerging privacy challenges and risks, implementing robust data protection principles, privacy-by-design architecture, and ethical considerations.
Additionally, complying with privacy regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), companies can establish comprehensive privacy policies that outline practices for handling personal data, including the right to access, correct, and delete personal data.
Ultimately, safeguarding personal data from AI privacy challenges should be a top priority for companies today. With AI applications becoming increasingly abundant, taking the necessary steps to protect user data is essential for any business that wants to remain competitive in the digital future.
How Velaro is addressing privacy challenges posed by AI systems to protect personal data
As a company providing AI-powered customer engagement solutions, at Velaro we recognize and understand the importance of protecting personal data from misuse. To ensure privacy and security, we take several steps to protect personal data, such as implementing strict data access controls, robust encryption methods, and regular security audits. We also conduct comprehensive data protection impact assessments to identify and mitigate potential privacy risks associated with our AI systems.
Don't let privacy risks hold you back from implementing AI in your business. Contact us to discuss our solutions for protecting personal data.