NEWS10 March 2020

The new privacy rules: Why it’s time to talk ethics in an AI age

Data analytics GDPR Impact 2020 News Privacy UK

UK – It is time to rethink privacy for the age of artificial intelligence – and that conversation requires everyone to be involved, according to AI expert Ivana Bartoletti. 

Impact 2020 Ivanka_crop

She issued a call to arms at the Impact 2020 conference, urging all delegates to take the ethical considerations of AI and data seriously, building in privacy by design even before legislation and governance forces it to. 

Bartoletti, technical director for Deloitte’s cybersecurity and privacy division and co-founder of Women Leading in AI Network, said: “We need to rethink what privacy means in the age we’re living in.

“It requires a conversation between all of us. What is the relationship between human and machine? How do we want society to be shaped? This is really looking at how we harness the value of data but in a way that is ethical and privacy compliant by design.”

AI was so transformative because of the huge amount of data it was able to process at speed, changing and shaping everything we do.  

She continued: “The reason why we’re talking so much about ethics in AI is over the last few years we have seen the best of technology – but also the worst.” 

AI was already being used to detect cancer and target consumers in better ways, she said. “AI will enable us to support and augment human capabilities, but we have also seen very bad things.”

 These included scandals such as Cambridge Analytica, increasing consumer concern over the rise of digital echo chambers and how their data is being used as well as examples such as facial recognition systems introduced with little governance and data flawed by bias. 

“Data represents decades and centuries of hierarchies in society,” she added. Technology was also shaped by those who build and commission it: a lack of diversity from the coders to the c-suite also builds in bias. This is dangerous. This could lead to perpetuating stereotypes into prejudice. 

“Ultimately ethics is all about the trade-off. How can we navigate the trade-off around privacy? Do we need to rethink privacy from the individual to the collective, for example?

Privacy law needed to change beyond the “consent fatigue” seen online and regulations needed introducing sooner rather than later – for instance, the “not widely liked” EU’s General Data Protection Regulation probably came too late. 

“We need to overcome the dichotomy between privacy and safety, privacy and innovation. Why can’t these things come together? What is the way to navigate this trade-off? Ethics is not a matter of wanting to be nice, but safeguarding the way we live and compete at a global scale,” she added.

Companies who would thrive in the AI age were those that built ethics and privacy by design into their future tech, respecting their consumers and users. In doing so they would gain a competitive edge and long-term success especially at a time of ever-changing regulations. 

“If there is one hope that I have for AI it is that it will bring out the best of humanity,” she concluded.