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There is little doubt that AI will be the future of humankind. The advances in the research and deployment of AI promise limitless possibilities in the future. We are expecting to see AI powering our transportation, residency, healthcare, entertainment, and business processes.

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AI applications never fail to amaze us whenever they are introduced. Amazon has two patents for a wristband that is able to check its workers’ hand movements when packing boxes and correct any inefficient movements. Humanyze provides solutions for companies to track their employees’ movements inside the office to evaluate the interactions among colleagues. Cogito records customer service agents’ empathy while handling calls.

However, the creation and development of these AI tools make customers and employees much more vulnerable to surveillance. China is hoping to fully deploy its social credit system by 2020, which allows the government to access and use citizens’ payment history, medical records, legal records, and other information to evaluate the social credit of each individual. The system is likely to include AI-enabled facial recognition to track a citizen’s travel and social interaction history through the wide-spreading camera systems across the country.

Nobody can deny the benefits of big data and AI. For example, in 2018, the police captured the perpetrator of a series of rapes and murders in the 1970s and 80s by comparing the genetic profile of the suspect with data genetic profiles in the database of a family tree service. The case is a good use of the genetic databases; nonetheless, who can ensure that the government or whoever gets access to the database won’t use it for heinous purposes.

The threat was so real that in 2016, a group of engineers, designers, and other employees from tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft created the Never Again pledge. Accordingly, the pledgers refuse to build any database for the government to collect information on someone’s religion, race, or national origin to avoid mass deportations.

One of the biggest concerns regarding big data and AI is privacy. When the algorithms advance so much and grow so powerful and humans get more dependent on technologies, AI can be used for more comprehensive and intensive surveillance on humans. Governments across the world have implemented stricter privacy protection and cybersecurity legislation. However, various other governments and businesses are still outside of the game with their outdated regulations.

At the 2018 International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners, Tim Cook mentioned the “data industrial complex” and warned us about our digital profiles that businesses are building from collected data and with the power of AI and big data. Companies, then, have a deep understanding of us and can use that understanding to target their products and campaign better. If that’s the only use they aim at, we are lucky.

The development of AI in particular and other technologies, in general, is inevitable. Nevertheless, humankind should never trade off their privacy and freedom for some benefits. Awareness of privacy and data security must be raised. New regulations must be implemented. Moral in data mining and exploitation must be increased. That’s the only way we can be sure of our safety and freedom.

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