Could AI Pose a Threat to User Privacy?

July 1, 2016

Digital privacy has always been an issue and the rise of artificial intelligence could mean that technology poses even more of a threat.

If someone was to develop the perfect AI, they would need to create a system that would parse through a lot of sensitive data.

The purpose of a lot of AI systems – at least the ones that act as our virtual helper, like Siri – is to provide us assistance through our lives. To do this, they need to analyse a lot of sensitive data that many people don’t want to be made public, such as text messages, location data and shopping history.

Artificial intelligence and virtual helpers are in a position to offer more streamlined services, but only if they connect to these other apps in our phones. If the AI isn’t linked to anything else, it’s not as valuable as it cannot build up a large enough picture of our lives.

What is the tension between privacy and progression?

Most companies don’t take privacy into consideration and develop without limits. They are on a quest for the biggest and best app they can build and if it ruffles a few feathers along the way, it doesn’t faze them very much.

Contrary to this, Apple has announced the extent they go to towards protecting user privacy. Unlike some other multi-national tech companies, they’re much more sensitive in how they deal with user data.

At their latest developers conference, Apple tried to put our minds at ease by listing the various safeguards they put in place to put the user first.

For one, Apple doesn’t sync data between two devices. Your iPhone’s location data won’t automatically sync to your Mac so, if anyone hacks into your laptop device, they’ll be hard pressed to see where you’ve been travelling to.

As well as this, any data that is collected by the company won’t have your name attached to it. The company masks the source of the data so everything is aggregated and anonymous.

There are concerns that this might hinder Apple’s ability to expand as a business, though. With a blanket approach to user privacy – which is hardly a bad thing – the company could be digging their own grave and halting their development, while other tech giants continue to power forward around them.

What implications are there?

Many fear that Apple, with its privacy guidelines, is falling behind and its artificial intelligence won’t be able to catch up with new trends.

With Apple ardent that it will go to any lengths to protect user privacy, it will be interesting to see how they will develop further – whilst still protecting their users.

In the long run, companies that don’t protect privacy are sure to get burnt more quickly than companies that do. There comes a time when the line is crossed and users take their own security a lot more seriously. These platforms need to watch how they are leveraging human data, or be wary of backlash.