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BizReport : Internet : May 24, 2019

Expert: How ethics in AI could impact data privacy

Just a year since the EU instituted GDPR to specify how businesses can collect, analyze, and use consumer data, consumer trust continues to be one of the biggest issues facing global businesses. This is because, while there has been a short-tern slowing of data breaches, larger, mega-breaches continue to happen and are a concern to consumers. That, according to one expert, is where ethics in AI may come to play.

by Kristina Knight

Kristina: We're at the year mark for the EU's GDPR, and still there are concerns about privacy. Why?

Agustin Huerta, VP of Technology, Globant: The progress that has been made since GDPR was implemented is encouraging, specifically as it relates to the number of data breaches that have been reported, compared to pre-GDPR. But, there is still a long way to go.

One of the basic elements of the data privacy legislation is that companies would have to pay a fine if they were found to be mishandling customer data. However, the reality, almost a year later, is that many businesses who've mishandled data have yet to be fined. In time, the EU needs to find a way to enforce the legislation. If they don't, it won't be taken seriously.

Even though businesses aren't being fined for mishandling customer data, they're facing other more pressing concerns. For one, consumer trust is on the decline. Recent mega-breaches have made consumers less likely to trust businesses with their personal information. So, despite not having to pay a fine, they're still feeling a hit on their bottom-line due to the reputational damage recent data breaches have caused.

Kristina: There is a new initiative, ethics in AI, that is being talked about - would you tell us more about this?

Agustin: These new guidelines are just a continuation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Regulations that determine how we manage user data require that we also have regulations in place to determine what can be built with that data, especially as it relates to AI.

While ethics in AI has been a focus of conversation, up until recently, there hasn't been significant progress made in this area. This new ethical framework devised by the European Council is focused on protecting citizen data. These guidelines ensure individuals are given more oversight into the development and implementation of these technologies, ensuring automation doesn't override human autonomy.

Bias has long been a concern, and while technology was thought to solve that problem, it hasn't. Under the EU's privacy and data governance guidelines, data that is collected isn't permitted to be used unlawfully or unfairly to discriminate against an individual on the basis of their age, gender, sexual orientation or religious views. Time will tell if these guidelines will be effective, but it's a step in the right direction in gaining consumer trust back.

Kristina: Why is being brought up now?

Agustin: GDPR is one of the key drivers. The data protection legislation provides a basis for some of the statements included in the guidelines, specifically those related to data transparency and usage.

In addition, the EU has notoriously been behind the US in terms of private AI investments. These guidelines are the EU's way of increasing its competitive positioning in the AI race by focusing on an area that still has a lot of room for improvement - ethics. The US and China have their hold on AI investment and research, and now the EU can lead the conversation surrounding the ethics in AI.

Kristina: Do you feel this new initiative is a good thing, from a consumer standpoint?

Agustin: From a consumer standpoint, yes. Specifically, in regard to the guidelines on privacy and data governance. Privacy has long been a concern of consumers and will continue to be one moving forward. Even before a breach occurs, privacy is a chief concern. It connects back to how the data is being used. For example, I could refuse to allow companies to track my activity within a website, which could be used later by a recommendation engine to suggest content targeted to me. If these guidelines are as effective as the EU projects, consumer trust and satisfaction will increase.

Kristina: What about a business perspective - is this something brands will find strengthens their identity?

Agustin: This initiative will help businesses build trust with their customers, which has a direct effect on their identity. As more guidelines are put in place to manage AI investments, brands will have an opportunity to improve their image among customers, which if done right, will improve their bottom line. Trust is huge for customers and if brands can earn and keep it, their identity will remain strong.

Kristina: Outside the EU, what might this new initiative bring about?

Agustin: Businesses in the U.S. will surely be affected by these guidelines in a number of ways. With fairness, transparency, accuracy, and safety being of the utmost importance for all companies, it's likely that if the test period is successful, US companies will adopt a similar, if not the same, guidelines. The initiative will also light a fire under the US and China, who, up until now, have established themselves as leaders in AI. It's also worth noting that despite these guidelines being created for European companies, many companies in the US that do business in Europe will also have to abide by them.

Tags: advertising data, data ethics, data privacy, ecommerce data, ethics in AI, GDPR, Globant

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