As you travel across the internet, you leave a data trail across on each site you visit. It might not seem like much, but the articles you read, your shopping preferences, and even your buying habits add up. Then companies like Google and Facebook use that information to make money. They allow third parties like online retailers and other platforms to personalize ads based on your interests.
People are aware of these privacy threats. It led to the creation of laws to better protect user data and introduce transparency in how companies share and use it. Artificial intelligence is one of the newest tools in this fight. While it won’t be able to ensure 100% safety, it’s a good start.
What Laws Are We Talking About?
In the last few years, lawmakers in the US and Europe have introduced a collection of bills that penalize tech companies that mishandle data. These laws include:
- California Consumer Privacy Act
- EU General Data Protection Regulation
- Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard
- US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act
These laws and regulations are the first significant step toward punishing the bad behavior of major tech companies. The Federal Trade Commission has already imposed a $5 billion on Facebook. In Europe, the EU has levied a $57 million fine on Google.
Of course, for major tech companies with annual revenues in the tens of billions of dollars, these fines aren’t that serious. But most security experts agree that it’s a step in the right direction.
Where Does AI Come in?
Significant changes are on the horizon. When governments create privacy regulations, they’re stored as plain text documents. These may be easy for humans to read, but machines have a hard time understanding them.
Each regulation needs to be processed for AI to understand it. But so much vagueness exists around what exactly makes up a privacy violation or not. So this task is almost impossible. Since machines think in binary terms of 1’s and 0’s (yes and no), it was unable to work in these trick gray areas.
New Breakthroughs in Programming Languages
The biggest breakthrough has come with the development of new programming languages. One example, OWL (web ontology language) can think in broader terms. These languages can define concepts into new categories. It creates more advanced logical capabilities for machines.
Now programmers can create more sophisticated hierarchies. They translate into more advanced machine logic. Looking at the EU General Data Protection, researchers can extract terms like “Consumers and Providers” and “Privacy” to create several different options instead of the simple yes or no.
It will take time to define all key terms, rules, policies, and properties. But once they do, researchers can create applications that work through data privacy regulations as a result. It will take less time for companies to determine whether they are complying with laws or not.
Over time, this technology will trickle down to individuals. It will help them get a better understanding of their rights and whether a company may have violated them or not.
Is It a Glimpse Into a More Private Future?
Everyone should remember that AI is merely a tool. Researchers can apply it to enforce data privacy regulations. But at the same time, people will find ways to abuse AI too. It’s already happening with the mass amounts of spam and malware everyone faces daily.
Everybody still needs to take privacy into their own hands. Websites you visit, your internet service provider, and the country that hosts it may want to get their hands on your data. It’s up to you to secure it.
Take steps to review your privacy settings on Google, Facebook, and other platforms. Then get a VPN to encrypt your internet traffic and hide your online activities. Try out some VPN free trials to find the right one for you (here is one example).
Finally, be sure to do a privacy and security audit every once in a while. Don’t ignore the cookie pop-ups telling you how sites use your data. Read app permissions before you start using new software on your smartphone. Together, these strategies will help you much safer experience — maybe even better than what the smartest AI would be able to guarantee.