In our increasingly digitised world, the term “artificial intelligence” (AI) has become a buzzword, captivating both the tech-savvy and the endlessly curious. AI might hold immense potential to transform industries and improve our daily lives, but this remarkable technology’s utilisation of personal data also raises significant questions about privacy, security, and the delicate balance between risks and benefits.
In this blog, we’ll delve into the inner workings of AI, explore how AI utilises personal data, and examine the critical considerations surrounding its use.
What is AI, and How Does it Work?
At its core, AI is a computer system that’s designed to mimic human intelligence – allowing it to perceive, reason, learn, and make decisions. Encompassing various techniques – such as machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing (NLP) – AI systems learn from vast amounts of data and use algorithms to recognize patterns, make predictions, and perform tasks with remarkable accuracy.
Machine learning forms the backbone of AI, and empowers systems to both learn from data, and improve performance over time. Personal data plays a pivotal role in this process. By feeding AI algorithms with diverse and extensive datasets, the system can recognize patterns and develop models that enable accurate predictions or well-informed decision-making.
But AI’s use of personal data also raises some serious questions.
The Role of Personal Data in AI
Personal data, including demographic information, browsing history and user behaviour, serves as the fuel for AI systems. This data helps to train algorithms and refine models – making AI more effective in understanding and responding to individual needs. However, while the collection and use of personal data comes with undeniable benefits, there are also risks that warrant careful consideration.
1 The Benefits of AI and Personal Data
AI’s utilisation of personal data has opened new horizons across various domains:
AI can analyse personal data to tailor experiences and recommendations to your target audience – enhancing customer satisfaction and efficiency in sectors like e-commerce and entertainment. This level of personalisation is particularly beneficial in times of economic strife, when competition for customers is fierce, and those with the buying power want to feel valued.
AI’s ability to process personal health records can assist medical professionals in diagnosing diseases, developing treatment plans, and improving patient outcomes. It can also put power into the hands of patients, with wearables and connected devices gaining evermore traction thanks to advances in tech and AI.
AI algorithms can analyse patterns in personal data to detect fraudulent activities, bolstering security measures and safeguarding people’s finances. With new cyber security threats emerging every day, it’s great to see technology being used for protection, rather than infiltration.
By analysing personal data from navigation systems and traffic sensors, AI can optimise traffic flow to reduce congestion and travel times. Not everyone appreciates the feeling of being ‘watched’ by AI, but there’s no denying the benefits that observant AI can bring to our day-to-day lives.
2 Risks Associated with Personal Data and AI
Despite its undeniable potential, the intersection of personal data and AI raises some concerns:
The vast amount of personal data collected for AI can be vulnerable to breaches, leading to unauthorised access and misuse of sensitive information.
Discrimination and Bias
If AI algorithms are trained on biased data, they may perpetuate existing societal biases, leading to unfair treatment or decisions.
Lack of Transparency
AI models can be highly complex, making it difficult to understand how personal data is used and decisions are made, and raising concerns about accountability and transparency.
Manipulation and Exploitation
Personal data can be exploited to manipulate consumer behaviour, influence opinions, or deceive people through targeted advertising or misinformation campaigns.
To harness the power of AI while stringently safeguarding personal data, we’d always recommend taking a multi-faceted approach.
As experts in data protection, we understand the risks to personal data only too well. That’s why we created PRISM: a powerful tool that enables organisations to analyse and manage risks – including the risks associated with AI systems – so that organisations can take a process-driven approach to data protection and information security.
As a comprehensive governance platform, PRISM empowers organisations to drive progress through the confident use of data, without the risk of breaches – even across AI.
If you don’t have a secure data protection system in place, it’s crucial you understand how to balance the risks and benefits of using personal data to power AI. This is not only essential for the safety of your clients and your reputation, but also for your legal standing: the balance of risks and benefits may form part of a Legitimate Interest Assessment (LIA), Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) or Transfer Impact Assessment – all of which are required to properly manage and process personal data.
Navigating the AI Landscape: Balancing Benefits and Risks
To harness the power of AI while stringently safeguarding personal data, we’d always recommend taking a multi-faceted approach. From ethical AI to regular audits, here are some areas that you need to consider:
- Robust Data Protection: Stringent data protection controls must be in place to safeguard personal data, ensuring transparency, consent, and user control over data collection and use.
- Ethical AI Development: Organisations need to carefully assess their processes, and include ethics and anti-bias reviews as part of the AI development cycle.
- Empowering Individuals: Users should have clear options to not only control how their data is used, but understand how it’s being used, too – fostering trust and enabling informed choices.
- Continuous Evaluation: Regular audits and assessments of AI systems can help to identify and rectify biases, safeguard privacy, and improve system transparency. It’s critical these are carried out by individuals or committees skilled in identifying biases, and with sufficient knowledge of data protection legislation to ensure compliance
With careful consideration and responsible deployment, AI can propel us towards a future where innovation and privacy coexist harmoniously – revolutionising the way we live and interact with technology. But balancing privacy, security and transparency will be crucial if we’re to realise AI’s true potential, without compromising personal data.
Need help managing the safe use of personal data?
Contact our team for a free consultation.