Innovation is changing the world at the fastest rate ever in human history. In the past few decades the emergence of the digital world has transformed world productivity, accelerated output and undoubtedly improved standards of living. But could development be reaching a dark stage? A point in development where people’s privacy and security may be compromised for greater productivity and business success? Can society really sacrifice privacy?
Countless companies have already integrated AI systems to direct products to the target market. Google’s advertising is entirely based off your browsing history and Youtube’s recommended videos are based off previously viewed and/or purchased items. Countless other companies are using the same technique, including Adidas, Pinterest and Yahoo. The business idea is simple: low cost, high reward marketing through pursuing specifically and exclusively the target market. The success of Google’s AI marketing is believed by many economists to have been the catalyst for its ubiquitous nature in modern society and its valuation at over US$500 billion. Obtrusive, therefore, is the corporate benefit of such AI.
However, many characteristics of a person as well as even their location and contacts can be drawn from browsing history. Information that multinational companies, such as Google, have complete rights to. Should we really trust these financial giants with our security? These firms argue that encryption techniques safeguard the information from external recipients and even employees, maintaining upmost privacy and security by ensuring that the information can never leave the system and be used maliciously without the information being encrypted (in code). However, with large scale, global hacks being ever more topical, the information may not be so safe. Many experts believe that the information that the software of these companies hold is potentially enough to completely identify people – a harrowing thought, therefore, that this security compromising information could end up in iniquitous hands.
In August 2013, 1 billion Yahoo accounts were hacked. Names, dates of birth, telephone numbers and even answers to security questions were all accessed by an unauthorised party; this compromised the privacy of thousands of people, in turn potentially deleteriously forfeiting their safety and security.
Even more recent is the development – and ongoing development – of face recognition and face ID. Its innovators have faced controversy over the privacy infringing nature of such technology. They argue that it has a wide range of excellent uses: from unlocking your phone to tracking criminals. However, they also imply that shops and businesses could also use the technology to track the location and activities of individuals – like you and me! This is removing a vast amount of consumer privacy, which many argue is radical and extremely authoritarian for the ever more libertarian modern world. This information, even more precise in its ability to locate and identify individuals, risks being fatal if taken by immoral parties. Although many argue that it could create an extremely efficient society, where consumers’ wants are always known and met through this supervision. The thought that you could always be being watched is disturbing to many; yet there is no legislation to block businesses from using such identity tracking.
Another controversial use of facial recognition is that certain innovators have developed software that analyses the faces of those identifiable and can analyse certain traits – including sexuality! Even though the success rate is low and the software can only safely give a small proportion of a sample the correct answer, many fear that it infringes greatly upon privacy and, in countries where being homosexual is illegal, authorities could unfortunately use the technology to track those lying about their sexuality, resulting in the associated punishment. In some countries this is the death penalty – threatening the safety of thousands of individuals.
The technology industry continues to plough forwards with research and development, but will it be beneficial or simply a detriment to the privacy and security of millions of individuals.