Can AI hurt you?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming part of everyone’s life. The news media covers it extensively, and every writers’ publication I receive has at least one article about the topic per issue.  Those who love technology are thrilled by the technological advances in AI; others are cautious; many are sounding alarms.

The advances that most intrigued—and in some cases alarmed—me related to AI’s use in the medical world and developments in writing tools. I will be writing about both in future blog posts. Before addressing these, I will explore AI generally and provide you with an overview.

I am not a geek. Numbers aren’t my friends, and it constantly amazes me that I brought into the world my two computer genius sons.

I can see both the positive and negative elements of AI. What affects this?

  • How accurately it’s programmed,
  • Whether it inadequately replaces a human, and
  • How good the laws that govern its application are.

With that in mind, I begin by introducing some of the hazards.

You’re Already Using AI

Whether you use a search engine, run your writing through Word’s editor program, get Amazon book recommendations, ask Alexa or Siri a question, or use a Roomba to vacuum your floors, you are taking advantage of AI in a limited form (usually called weak AI). Weak, however, doesn’t mean harmless, as you will learn later in this post.

Ethical Issues of AI that Can Hurt You

Experts are raising alarms that ChatGPT and similar AI chatbots can enable the unscrupulous to spread harmful lies with dizzying speed. This is both a political risk and an attack on individual privacy.

In the novel, 1984 by George Orwell, “Big Brother is watching you” was a commonly repeated phrase. AI is not the first form of technology to bring this statement to life, but it has raised it to a higher level of reality.

Here’s a sampling of unethical AI practices (from Lasser.Rouhainen).

Clearview Artificial Intelligence facial recognition technology: This company in 2019 expanded to 25 countries to work with law enforcement agencies and other governmental agencies. The program is capable of containing more than three billion images. And how do they get them? From social media platforms and websites—without the knowledge of private users.

Duplicating your voice with AI can hurt you

The common scam does like this: “Hello Grandma, this is your son, Matthew. I am in jail in Miami and need $10,000 bail. Can you wire transfer it to me?”

AI can hurt you by using the technology that allows us to replicate someone’s voice creating a realistic copy. This technology already exists.

finger touching robot finger

Big Brother is Listening to You

What are the repercussions? In Sweden, where use of such technology is banned by privacy laws, a police department was successfully sued; the government took further steps to clear the unlawfully assembled data.

Smart speakers can also be smart listeners. Yes, Alexa and Siri may be listening to you not only when you ask them questions but also when you think you’ve turned them off. This is due to a design error that their producers seem uneager to fix. Because of it, they can be activated by mistake many times a day.

Reader’s Digest has an article I’m summarizing one of the key reasons for concern.

Florian Schaub, assistant professor in the University of Michigan’s School of Information, explains that anything you say to Alexa or a similar device can be used for additional information about you. And they’re very good at gathering it. They can tell whether a man or woman is speaking and if there are children in the home. This information helps them to send you targeted promotional and advertising information.

Our privacy is critical.  AI technology can gather sensitive information without your awareness. Its unethical use could lead to the erosion of crucial confidentiality.

Read “How to Stop Alexa and Other Assistants from Listening” to prevent this invasion of privacy.

Do You Trust Microsoft to Responsibly Use Your Information?

I hope the answer is “no.” The company, which has invested $10 billion in ChatGPT, probably the best-known AI program, has a casual attitude towards security.

Make Use Of describes how this attitude may jeopardize your security and privacy.

ChatGPT records and stores transcripts of your conversations. Any information you put into the chat, including personal information, is logged. This is a particular problem if you use it to proofread personal or professional documents.

It also stores confidential information about your company, employees, and clients.

In view of this, it may seem astonishing that Microsoft eliminated its entire Ethics team., which had been assigned to make sure the technology was safe to use.

TechCrunch reported the following:

“Members of the team told Platformer they believed they were let go because Microsoft had become more focused on getting its AI products shipped before the competition, and was less concerned with long-term, socially responsible thinking.

“Teams like Microsoft’s ethics and society department often pull the reins on big tech organizations by pointing out potential societal consequences or legal ramifications. Microsoft perhaps didn’t want to hear “No,” anymore as it became hell bent on taking market share away from Google’s search engine. The company said every 1% of market share it could pry from Google would result in $2 billion in annual revenue.”

There are even more issues with AI, such as its impact on plagiarism, job security, and getting out of control.  These raise fears and questions.

In Summary

Be careful. Make a point of not putting in sensitive information into an AI program.

If I worked in an office where I had sensitive phone or live conversations, I wouldn’t share my space with Alexa or similar forms of AI.

If you’re inclined to political activism, investigate what you can do to encourage more careful usage and better safeguarding. Microsoft, Google, and other tech giants aren’t going to monitor themselves, and ultimately AI issues may need to be addressed at the federal, state, and local levels.

You can also do what I’m doing here: Inform people. If you see Alexa on someone’s kitchen table or desk, you might want to tell them about its lesser-known talents.

Pat IyerThus far, I’ve focused on the dark side of how AI can hurt you. There is a brighter side, but it, too, comes with warnings. I will explore these in upcoming blog posts.

Pat Iyer uses AI to create some content. She finds it helpful in some situations. This image was created with AI.