Engendering trust in an AI world

March 02, 2020

SMU Office of Research & Tech Transfer - Can you imagine a world without personalised Spotify playlists, curated social media feeds, or recommended cat videos on the sidebars of YouTube? These modern-day conveniences, which were made possible by artificial intelligence (AI), also present a scary proposition - that the machines could end up knowing more about us than we ourselves do.

According to Gartner's 2019 CIO Agenda survey, 37 percent of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) globally have already deployed AI technology in their organisations. The rapid adoption of AI solutions brings to focus the way data - which could consist of sensitive, confidential and personal information - are being managed and used by organisations.

Speaking at the conference panel on 'AI and Data Protection: New Regulatory Approaches', Singapore Management University (SMU) Associate Professor Warren Chik gave his perspective on how to conceptualise trust in a digital age. "When it comes to matters such as personal data, we don't treat AI as god. Therefore, we cannot rely on faith, which is what religion requires. We need something more substantial than that," he said.

In his talk titled 'Artificial Intelligence and Data Protection in Singapore: Consumers' Trust, Organisational Security and Government Regulation', Professor Chik explained that to engender trust in a digital solution, it is crucial that users are being engaged on the issues involved. "People tend to fear the unknown, and it is hard to have trust in something that you don't know."

Moderated by Professor David Llewelyn, Deputy Dean of the SMU School of Law, the roundtable featured speakers Professor Ian Walden, Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London; Associate Professor Yip Man (whose paper was presented by Associate Professor Alvin See on her behalf); as well as commentators Mr KK Lim, Head of Cybersecurity, Privacy and Data Protection, Eversheds Harry Elias; and Mr Lanx Goh, Senior Legal Counsel (Privacy & Cybersecurity) & Global Data Protection Officer, Klook Travel Technology.

AI as an influencer

The ability of an AI system to conduct personal profiling could fundamentally change a user's digital personality, said Professor Chik, highlighting a cause of worry for many.

"While an AI holds specific information such as your name and address, it also forms its own knowledge of your identity, and who you are as a person," Professor Chik said, citing algorithms used by social media feeds to collect data on one's identity, interests and surfing habits. From that data, the system then creates a profile of who they think you are.

"These algorithms - which may be right or wrong - feed you information, articles and links, and as a result brings about an effect on your thinking. In other words, AI can mold human behaviour, and this is a risk that makes a lot of people uncomfortable," Professor Chik said. The threat is very real, he emphasised, noting that regulators have clearly identified a need to regulate the use of data in AI.

In Singapore, for instance, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) carries criminal provisions on the creation, use and alteration of bots to spread false information.

Data protection legislation: a balancing act

In trying to regulate data, there are always two competing objectives when regulating the use, collection and processing of personal data. "The first objective is to protect the data subject, and the second is to promote innovation," said Professor See, who presented Professor Yip's paper on her behalf.

Of the different types of protection for data subjects that exist today, the most commonly available option is the use of contracts. Professor Yip's paper points out that "[t]he problem with trying to regulate data use through terms and conditions is that in most cases, people don't read [the legal fine print]". The consent given is therefore not genuine.

Professor Llewelyn, who moderated the roundtable, added that the meaning of consent is an issue that needs to be explored in greater depth. "If a consumer were to accept an online contract in full without reading it, can it be realistically said that he or she has agreed to all the terms and conditions, and given full consent?" he asked. "Perhaps there should be legal acknowledgement given to the automatic nature of the commitment made in such contracts."

A more critical limitation of the contract as protection for the data subject, is that the contract only governs the information that is shared between the two parties bound by the contract. For instance, if Facebook were to transfer a user's personal data to a third-party not bound by the contract, the third-party firm will not be obligated to protect the user's information.

Data protection by design

Singapore's Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which regulates personal data through the use of legislation, is described as light touch regime that takes a strongly balanced approach between the need for privacy protection and the interest of business innovation.

Professor Yip's paper recognises that there is some level of tension between the two objectives mentioned above. The issue at hand, therefore, is how to strike a balance between individual rights and privacy, and the competing interest of economic growth and innovation, she noted.

At the end of the day, the focus is on preventing, rather than trying to remedy a breach of data privacy. "It is about recognising the rights of the individual and the privacy of their data, and at the same time, the need for organisations to collect, use and disclose personal data for legitimate and reasonable purposes," Professor Yip's paper added.

Another solution that Professor Yip explored in her paper was the use of technology instead of law to protect data subjects. In some cases, privacy can be directly built into the design and operation of operation systems, work processes, network infrastructure and even physical spaces. She nevertheless highlights that this solution is not perfect because it is against the interest of businesses which leverage data to make profits to build robust privacy safeguards into their systems and business models.

Singapore Managment University

Related Innovation Articles from Brightsurf:

Food system innovation -- and how to get there
Food production has always shaped the lives of humans and the surface of the Earth.

What is the best way to encourage innovation? Competitive pay may be the answer
Economists and business leaders agree that innovation is a major force behind economic growth, but many disagree on what is the best way to encourage workers to produce the 'think-outside-of-the-box' ideas that create newer and better products and services.

Innovation is widespread in rural areas, not just cities
Conventional measures of innovation suggest that only big cities foster new ideas, but a more comprehensive measure developed at Penn State shows that innovation is widespread even in rural places not typically thought of as innovative.

Scaling up search for analogies could be key to innovation
Investment in research is at an all-time high, yet the rate of scientific breakthroughs isn't setting any records.

Why you should be concerned about Oprah Winfrey when introducing an innovation
New research by Bocconi University's Paola Cillo and Gaia Rubera with Texas A&M's David Griffith asserts that the reaction of large individual investors to innovation is an important component of stock returns, their reaction to innovation depends on their national culture, and there is a way to segment large individual investors and pitch innovation to them accordingly.

Responsible innovation key to smart farming
Responsible innovation that considers the wider impacts on society is key to smart farming, according to academics at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Pillars of academic innovation
Highlights from the Sixth Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors, including high-tech solutions to combat child pornography and radicalization materials; groundbreaking programs to promote STEM major retention; and new materials for wearable technology.

Universities drive innovation in the classroom
The current issue of Technology and Innovation, Journal of the National Academy of Inventors ® (19.2) examines innovation from the university perspective, highlighting what the most innovative institutions and educators worldwide are doing to prepare future engineers and industry leaders to effectively manage IP to grow their companies and the global economy as a whole.

How universities are fostering innovation and entrepreneurship
Technology and Innovation 19.1 zeroes in on innovation and entrepreneurship, with a special focus on what universities are currently doing to foster growth in those areas both for their success and the success of the communities and regions to which they are connected.

Shaping the future of health innovation
Future advances in healthcare will be aided by a new £10 million facility -- the National Institute for Health Research Innovation Observatory based at Newcastle University, UK.

Read More: Innovation News and Innovation Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.