Artificial Intelligence Raises Privacy Concerns

Thomas Daniels, Sports Editor

Self-driving cars run by AI could become commonplace not too far in the future. Image courtesy of forbes.com.

Imagine a world 30 years from now. Cars that self-drive instead of fly and drivers’ ed reduced to learning how to turn the car on. Factories will be fully automated and replaced by artificial intelligence. Classrooms could be drastically changed, using technology to personalize how people learn based on interest in subjects and how they learn. But not everything is as it seems. In the future, and already in the present, privacy is a significant concern. More personalized search results and ads come with consequences. For AI and people to live harmoniously, we have to strike a balance between privacy and information access. 

Google and Netflix use AI to personalize ads or movies based on someone’s search history or watch history, which makes it convenient for people and convenient for companies to market products that they want to sell. That comes with the cost of privacy, however. Multi-national corporations such as Facebook and Google have already gotten into hot water because of data leaks. Facebook, for instance, leaked 530 million users’ data in early April, data about people’s full name, address, phone numbers, locations and email addresses. That wasn’t an isolated event either. In July 2019, the FTC fined Facebook $5 billion to settle a fine over privacy concerns. 

The looming presence of a dystopian government has been the subject of many books, most famously 1984. A surveillance state of that nature seems to be brewing in China, where they have developed a facial recognition system that can track people within their borders. And Beijing embraces the new technology. 

“The Communist Party doesn’t see those new technologies as a danger to their rule,” Kai Strittmatter, a German journalist who has studied China for thirty years, said on NPR. “On the contrary, they have discovered, or they think that actually these new technologies give them new instruments that will perfect their rule.”

WeChat is, among other things, a social media and messaging app that governments could use to spy on their citizens. Image courtesy of ignitesocialmedia.com.

Not only does China use facial recognition, but they also spy on their citizens’ private lives. The use of WeChat in China allows the government to spy on its citizens through text messages. 

Strittmatter recalled a story about a couple of friends who went to a pro-Hong Kong poetry reading, which they planned through WeChat. The government arrested them before they could get there. WeChat runs as a one-in-all app in China, so it not only functions as a messenger but as a bank and Uber, and you can even file government documents on the app. This all-in-one type of app allows the Chinese government to see almost every aspect of a citizen’s life.

If we want privacy and AI, we have to find the balance between them. We cannot sacrifice privacy for convenience. Individuals have to be critical of tech companies using their data and wary of governments using that information. AI can bring people things like self-driving cars and new and effective ways of catching highly wanted criminals, but people also have to tread carefully in the future to make sure that information is secure.