web analytics

Artificial Intelligence Invades Our Private Lives

AI’s mass surveillance tools strip people of their privacy.

As artificial intelligence (AI) inserts itself into nearly every aspect of our lives, some question just how it collects and uses the data. Two major concerns are its surveillance of private citizens and the disbursement of whatever information it gathers. Are AI tools spying on individuals? Meredith Whittaker, president of the Signal Foundation, claims they are.

Artificial Intelligence Spying on the People

“The AI technologies we’re talking about today are reliant on mass surveillance,” Whittaker said at Vivatech, Europe’s top conference for industry players in Paris.

Aside from being president of Signal, Whittaker is also a co-founder of the AI Now Institute, which researches the social impact of artificial intelligence. In 2006, she led a research group on technology for Google and was an adviser to the US Federal Trade Commission. Over the years, she has given many interviews warning of the dangers of AI.

Last year, Whittaker told Euro News: “AI poses a huge privacy risk. It calls for the creation and collection of increasingly pervasive, increasingly invasive data about us, about our communities.” In December 2023, she warned in an interview with Politico on how the government gains power using AI:

“It creates the conditions for many of the harms we see today: the centralized power of a handful of surveillance companies that are now also the AI companies, which resulted in the dependence of governments on these companies for surveillance for infrastructure, effectively outsourcing many of what we assume are the core functions of government. It created actors that now have, in many ways, more geopolitical power than individual nation-states.”

But it’s not just the government, according to Whittaker. She accused artificial intelligence firms of making profits while claiming to find solutions. In one example, she mentioned the climate crisis and how AI companies were taking money from fossil fuel companies purportedly to help find solutions but, she alleged, they were instead finding new resources to extract. “Because, of course, where is the revenue? It’s not saving the climate,” she said. “It is in massive contracts with BP, with Exxon, with other large oil and gas companies.”

How are businesses using the information gathered by artificial intelligence tools? Whittaker gave the example of applying for a bank loan and being denied, with “no idea that there’s a system in [the] back probably powered by some Microsoft API that determined, based on scraped social media, that I wasn’t creditworthy.”

This can be concerning to those who regularly use social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to post comical memes, updates about their lives and activities, and political views. “That data becomes data about me,” Whittaker stated, adding:

“It doesn’t need to be correct. It doesn’t need to be reflective of who I am or where I am. But it has power over my life that is significant, and that power is being put in the hands of these companies.”

She is not the only one warning about AI and its use of surveillance on private citizens. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act against the National Security Agency (NSA) to “compel the release of recently completed studies, roadmaps, and reports that explain how the NSA is using AI and what impact it is having on people’s civil rights and civil liberties.”

Officials seem baffled as to what the proper way to monitor and regulate the use of artificial intelligence within the government and civilian companies might be. How much oversight should federal officials have? During the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information, Technology, and Government Innovation meeting in December, the consensus seemed to be to add more AI instead of less. Part of the concern stems from other countries outpacing the United States in the field and how that can affect US national security.

Still, there is valid concern over the intrusion of artificial intelligence in all aspects of our lives. Just how much free rein should AI have to spy on us?

Read More From Kelli Ballard

Latest Posts

The Once and Future SCOTUS

We examine the current state of the Supreme Court and dig deep into the partisan challenges from Congress and the...

Has King Dollar Been Dethroned?

For the US dollar, it has been the best of times and the worst of times.  Over the last few years, the greenback...

San Francisco Wins Worst Run City Award – Again

It's official: The worst-run city for the second year in a row is none other than San Francisco. The city by the...