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How AI, IoT, and Related Technologies Are Affecting Our Privacy

Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and various related technologies are becoming more prominent in modern society by the day.

Together, they have incredible implications: These technologies can make our cities safer, help companies become more efficient, and even bring about the “smart homes” we’ve long anticipated. And even those examples are barely scratching the surface.

Along with all of the benefits, we can reap from AI, IoT, and related tech though, there are also significant concerns about personal privacy.

In looking at ‘100 Data Privacy and Data Security Statistics’, we noted that 84% of respondents to surveys indicated that they “care about privacy, care for their own data, and care about the data of other members of society….” The same group had a desire for more control over data.

This shows that most of us consider personal privacy to be an issue, and given that AI and the IoT are now affecting all of us, the privacy implications are worth thinking about.

t 84% of respondents to surveys indicated that they “care about privacy, care for their own data, and care about the data of other members of society….”
Source: Cisco Consumer Privacy Survey 2019

To cover all of the ways in which these technologies may impact our privacy may not be entirely possible. The tech is still evolving, and for each application, there are different potential issues.

In broad terms though, the following are some of the ways in which AI, IoT, and related technologies are affecting our privacy.

We Become Data

We’re all generally aware of the idea that the modern world runs on data, which is collected in countless ways and from innumerable sources. But the true scope of modern data is still almost difficult to grasp.

A write-up on the state of big data on Verizon Connect puts forth raw numbers and states that in just the past few years we’ve produced roughly 90% of all available data in the world.

in just the past few years we’ve produced roughly 90% of all available data in the world.
Source: Verizon Connect

That speaks to the extent at which data gathering is accelerating, and it’s no coincidence that this acceleration coincides with the rise of AI and the IoT.

These technologies are responsible for the collection and logging of virtually unlimited troves of information. And that includes information about us.

The broadest concern about privacy with regard to modern tech is simply that we become data points that are used for research, business strategies, and more — whether we like it or not.

What We Share Can Be Permanent

This point relates to the idea of becoming data but specifically has to do with permanence. Last year, Wired wrote about the next big privacy concern, which they define as the tendency of AI to remember.

The publication suggested that the “right to be forgotten” — something proposed by the GDPR in 2018 — may be under threat from modern AI.

The idea originally was that people ought to be able to expect the information they enter online to disappear in time, or that they ought to be able to request its erasure.

AI, however, can’t always be trusted to adhere to these ideas. As a result, we have another privacy concern. AI systems can have a nasty habit of remembering things that we don’t intend to reveal or share permanently.

The IoT Can Invite Eavesdropping

Where the IoT specifically is concerned, the incredible convenience of the technology, unfortunately, invites eavesdropping as a sort of side effect.

The easiest example is to think of a modern smart home — essentially a home environment comprised of different IoT devices connected to one another, and to the internet.

You can enjoy a lot of perks with a system like this. But it’s also possible for specific IoT devices to be compromised, such that they’re actually used to gather information about you against your will (say, by making the feed from a home security camera visible to a stranger).

This is not a statement meant to inspire paranoia or fear about the IoT or smart homes specifically. Rather, it’s a reason to be cautious and diligent about security and privacy. More often than not, the benefits of the IoT will outweigh the risks. But it’s certainly possible for a given IoT device to negatively affect privacy.

We Can Produce Unwanted Public Profiles

The idea of an unwanted public profile is similar to the broader concept of our becoming data points against our will. But it’s still a specific notion that deserves some attention.

Business Insider piece on IoT security spoke to this as one of the chief privacy issues having to do with modern technology. It explained that connected devices collect data about us that can then be used to assess or profile us without our knowledge.

One example given, for instance, is that a vehicle with IoT elements can compile data about driver performance, which can in turn be used by an insurance company when calculating an insurance rate.How technology is affecting your privacyOften, this kind of thing is made possible because we check terms and service boxes without reading fine print. But it remains the case that the tech we use is essentially analyzing us in ways we don’t always count on.

Be aware of the privacy risks

Modern technologies don’t ultimately have to be scary or unsettling, and again, the benefits of AI and the IoT are significant as well. But it’s still important to be aware of the privacy risks so that you can guard yourself against them accordingly.

Article specially written for Data Privacy Manager by Alice Dolton.

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