Data Privacy

AI, IoT, and the Moving Target of Data Protection

The LocatorX Team

January 10, 2020

January 10, 2020

Data privacy is one of the buzziest spaces in tech, with billions of investment dollars pouring in from all over the world. At the same time, it is evolving at a near-daily pace. Those who consider themselves data privacy experts have to work breathlessly to stay one step ahead of the game, so they can help to protect others from the latest threats.

What it means to protect one’s data today could be entirely different by next week, which is as fascinating as it is frightening. 

This is a completely modern dilemma, and like many facets of our digital world, we are learning about it together in real time. The demands surrounding information security are tied to several other tech trends, perhaps none more so than AI and IoT. 

When it comes to “disruptive technology,” artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) are in a league of their own. Our homes and workplaces, even our city streets, are being transformed, and many feel the possibilities are endless. The excitement and momentum has not left much room for precaution or hesitation as it relates to our security. Companies are diving head-first into the fray, with 50% of workers currently using some form of AI at work and industrial IoT spending expected to cross $450 billion by 2023.

Concurrently, the lack of standardization and clear security measures in AI and IoT development is leaving too much room for imperfection. 

As a result, the door is left open for cybercriminals to access data through billions of new endpoints, and for solutions vendors to sell our heaps of new data being gathered. And as our devices are given minds of their own, there is another set of unknowns related to the information we share or provide them access to.  

“These devices can be anywhere from having zero security capability to everything in between, across the spectrum,” said Cypress Semiconductor Jack Ogawa, on the topic of IoT security, in an interview with VentureBeat

“The problem with that, one, as a consumer you don’t know what you’re getting, because each device delivers things in a different way in terms of privacy. But there’s also a commercial aspect to the problem. In a fragmented state like this, it turns out it’s cost-inefficient for everyone to have their own answer.”

AI and the IoT are objectively groundbreaking innovations, quickly changing the rules for millions of businesses. Their potential is limitless in business intelligence and process optimization, among many other things. But an increasing number of tech experts, such as Elon Musk, are being vocal about the risks of these technologies and the breakneck speed of their growth.

“I think the most dangerous thing with AI is its pace of development,” said Irakli Beridze, Head of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at UNICRI (United Nations), in an interview with Futurism. “Depending how quickly it will develop and how quickly we will be able to adapt to it. And if we lose that balance, we might get in trouble.”

Certain fears are only speculation at this point. But the potential is as serious as a heart attack. And because of the relentless pace of automation and smart-ification in our homes, offices, and everywhere in between, development and adoption are outpacing (and out-prioritizing) security. 

This makes for a moving target of sorts, with regard to securing the outrageous amount of data flowing through IoT devices and AI-enabled systems. And not just securing it from cyberterrorists, but from the machines themselves.

“What makes this even more serious is that the massive amount of data we’re feeding these algorithms has enabled them to make decisions experientially or intuitively like humans. This is a huge break from the past, in which computers would simply execute human-written instructions,” writes Darren Shou in a contribution to Wired.

“Now, advanced AI systems can analyze the data they’ve internalized in order to arrive at a solution that humans may not even be able to understand—meaning that many AI systems have become ‘black boxes,’ even to the developers who built them, and it may be impossible to reason about how an algorithm made or came to a certain decision.”

It’s not all bad news. Though creating new challenges for data protection, these tech revolutions may counter others, and be a boon for our security over the long term. With that being said, the next several years are poised for the unpredictable. Data privacy and protection will remain a hot button issue, but the swelling demand for security—and its high degree of difficulty—may make these efforts as profitable as they are noble. 

Keeping up will be a historic challenge, as these technologies continue evolving and spreading before our eyes. Whether protecting you or your business’s own data, or working in the data privacy/information security/data protection sector, it will be crucial to stay vigilant and informed about technology in general. 

The same data we use to power innovations like AI and IoT is making us vulnerable in an increasing number of ways, especially as their capabilities grow more complex. In this new year, we’ll need to balance our enthusiasm for future tech with a fluid, proactive approach to data safety. 


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