Facial Recognition, Data Privacy and Your Identity

For age old reasons, the government issued ID or passport has been the official link between our facial features and our identification. And the two in combination have been the traditional way of both authenticating and identifying us on an ad-hoc and transient basis at bars, banks, airports, and so much more…

The range of how our identity and facial features can be used in both private affairs and civil procedures is virtually endless, even without our knowledge or explicit consent. The regulation of usage is a difficult topic for unanimous agreement surrounding our privacy and safety in the same world where freedom of expression, movement and liberty contribute to our livelihoods.

Then we introduce technology to the equation.

Where technology adds a level of magic, comfort and efficiency to our lives, never experienced before relieving us of the boring, mundane and impossible it also adds a level of risk to our data privacy and security. And we all know that once something has been introduced to the internet, it’s near impossible to remove.

Take Google Nest Hub Max – we entrust it to connect us to our homes when we are far away for us to track and see for ourselves key events – saving energy, ensuring comfort and convenience whilst maximising the surveillance and security of our babies, dogs and homes. But can we trust where Google is storing our most sensitive data and what they are doing with it? Nest uses Face Match, facial recognition software, which is enabled by the front facing always-on camera for security, to understand which user is using it and for video calls. If the feature is on, the detection is constant and the security of our data, how it is being processed and stored, cannot be guaranteed. The detection can however be turned off, but at the detriment to functionality.

Turn to Apple photos, Google Photos and Facebook tagging – instances where facial recognition is applied to data you provide, aka your photos. The ease of photography, the popularity of the selfie and the constant desire to update your friends, family and followers on your day-to-daymeans bulky streams consisting of hundreds if not thousands of photos. Manually organising these photos is administrative and time-consuming, in other words, something AI and automation can now do for us. So when Apple’s algorithms can identify the faces of your family and friends, even your pets, organise them and allow you to search by face, does this functionality make the security risk worth it?  

Facebook’s facial recognition feature notifies you when others upload photos of you. Whilst recent developments enable an individual to opt-out of this function, there is no guarantee that Facebook itself is not scanning and processing your image. Harnessing your identity to potentially create an online profile of you to sell to advertisers and who knows what else. Likewise with Google – which uses facial recognition and automation to autotag photos of you and your friends – you can also choose to opt out, but you have no control over what your friends may decide to do with photos of you and where that data publicly ends up.

All of these technologies and instances of applied facial recognition also enable facial mapping, providing swift and secure entry into our smart phones – deeming them impenetrable when in the wrong hands. Once unlocked, a further safeguarding layer of facial recognition is provided for mobile payments like Apple Wallet, which unlike other touch-less forms of payment, has no limit.

Whilst there is an enigma surrounding where our facial image data actually lives inside of Google, Facebook and Apple’s servers, how secure it is and how effective is the encryption?  One thing is certainly clear, the multi-purposes of our devices and their built in sensitivity to our changing environments that simplify and augment our lives  – be it Nest which knows, in real time, the occupancy of our homes and our preferred weather, or our phones which house our banking details alongside thousands of images, text and browser history – the future of our data privacy begs the question:

Is the cost of convenience and our need to publish and document our life’s moments  worth more right now than the risk of jeopardizing our privacy and possibly identify?


Up next: DNA Testing: Is knowing your heritage worth risking your privacy?


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Enterprise Artificial Intelligence – Academic Theory or Ready for Primetime?

Solvetheunsolvable has already explored various aspects of consumer AI and products purporting to leverage AI technologies, but is AI for Enterprise ready for primetime?

Investors aren’t the only ones betting big on Artificial Intelligence, it turns out Higher Education is also investing heavily into the space. With heavy investment in research and development, enterprise level AI seems to be having a rocky start.  Earlier this month Northeastern University allocated $50 million to an Institute for Experiential Artificial Intelligence. This institute will be dedicated to uniting leading experts to solve the world’s unsolvable problems.

“This new institute, the first of its kind, will focus on enabling artificial intelligence and humans to collaborate interactively around solving problems in health, security, and sustainability. We believe that the true promise of AI lies not in its ability to replace humans, but to optimize what humans do best.”


Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun

This isn’t Northeastern’s first step into the world of Artificial Intelligence and Automation. They already have an Institute for Experiential Robotics that is bringing together engineers, sociologists and other experts, including economists, to design and build robots with abilities to learn and execute human behaviors.  Northeastern isn’t just building Institutes for experts to conduct research, they are making it a priority to prepare their students for success in the age of artificial intelligence. They have an entire curriculum dedicated to what they call, humanics which is a key part of their strategic plan, Northeastern 2025.

Northeastern 2025 Promo Video

“We are building on substantial strengths across all colleges in the university,” said Carla Brodley, dean of the Khoury College of Computer Sciences. “Experiential AI is highly relevant to our mission.”

Though Northeastern is an example of one university betting heavily on AI, they are not alone in their quest to equip students with proper education for the AI-enabled future. In fact, government agencies are getting involved in funding AI in Education. The UK has pledged to invest £400 million in math, digital and technical education through the government’s AI sector deal to protect Britain’s technology sector amid Brexit and an additional £13 million for postgraduate education on AI. In the US, just a few days ago, the National Science Foundation announced a joint federal program to fund research focused on artificial intelligence at colleges, universities and nonprofit or nonacademic organizations focused on educational or research activities. 

The National Science Foundation is awarding $120 million to fund planning grants and support up to six institutes, but there’s a catch. Each institute must have a principal focus on at least one of six themes:

  • Trustworthy AI
  • Foundations of Machine Learning
  • AI-Driven Innovation in Agriculture and the Food System
  • AI-Augmented Learning
  • AI for Accelerating Molecular Synthesis and Manufacturing
  • AI for Discovery in Physics

As universities and governments bet big on the future of AI and education, it underscores the importance of AI on a global scale in the future, but does it call into question the current existence of AI solutions ready to take business to the next level? Utilizing AI and automation will be imperative for corporations to remain competitive and for the advancement of business, but when will the floodgates be swept open, and by who, remains a mystery.

Will you leap into the future and embrace AI now? How do you see the futuristic vision of enterprise AI transform your business? Challenge Solvetheunsolvable with your business conundrum or leave your thoughts in the comments below and let’s explore what AI can do for you. 


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Artificial Intelligence: The Future of Healthcare

What’s more important to parents than the health and well being of their children? Not much, if anything. So imagine this… your child could have a disease that an Artificial Intelligence enabled iPhone app would diagnose more than a year before doctors and all you have to do to find out is take some photos. Sound too good to be true? With the power of Artificial Intelligence, alternative health care tests, such as this one for children, could literally be in your hands right now…

A post from Government Technology explains:

“CRADLE makes use of artificial intelligence to look at baby pictures taken with a flash and pick out instances of white eye. When tested on 50,000 images of 40 children, half of whom had been diagnosed with an eye disease, the technology was able to identify white eye in pictures taken up to 1.3 years before the child was diagnosed.”

This non-intrusive, ultra- convenient Artificial Intelligence enabled technology is pushing the boundaries of digital health diagnosis, and this is just one example. In addition to convenience, your data privacy is less at risk as the app analyses the photos right on your device, reducing latency and increasing privacy by not uploading to a server. This type of technology, when developed further, could be very useful to detect a variety of health issues.

In fact, there are other apps that are already utilizing AI to address a host of mental and physical health concerns. Some of these health applications range from AI chat bots programmed to treat mental health all the way to AI-enabled apps that can help women track and predict fertility. Investors are betting big on these AI-enabled health apps with millions in funding being pumped into these companies of the future.

The
future of AI-enabled apps is certainly bright. Wearable tech, like FitBit or
Apple Watch, when equipped with built-in Artificial Intelligence, could one day
utilize personal health data to identify diseases such as cancer in the very
early stages. Apple Watch
is already able to use AI
to identify
irregular heart beats known as paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (Afib) with 97%
accuracy.

Image result for healthcare cost rising

With the continuous rise of healthcare costs, for individuals and the country as a whole, consumers are looking towards AI for more affordable self-diagnostics. This is evident in more than AI health apps, but also in many at home health kits such as, EverlyWell and QuestDirect, stay tuned for our Data Privacy Series article on at home diagnostics coming soon.

Artificial Intelligence is improving the healthcare space at rapid speed and the technology is only getting better. So the question that must be posed is:


Could AI be the key to solving the $760 billion healthcare crisis?


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Alexa, How are you using my data?

Smart Home technology is a well saturated market with technology that just a short few years ago many thought could not be possible. We have long talked about voice assistants and video enabled devices but now technology that was once thought to be futuristic has arrived, seemingly omnipresent in many households around the global. Not only are Artificial Intelligence enhanced video enabled devices now available but they come in many varieties, from home protection to two-way video chatting with your pet.


Video “chat” with a pet?….

When did animals start chatting?


With these ever present devices in so many households – cameras, digital assistants, smart TVs, smart thermostats and more – are we enhancing our physical privacy or actually putting it in jeopardy? Are the benefits, such as automation, smart phone remote capabilities and more, worth the risk of data privacy?

Are you taking advantage of Smart Tech, or is it taking advantage of you?

So what’s the big deal if your smart home has data that’s making your life easier? Amazon’s Alexa can make it easier for you to order more household items. Google Home can integrate with Google Nest to allow you to control your A/C by simply telling it to change the temperature. All great features that help make things a little bit more convenient in our day to day, but what exactly are these companies doing with our data?

Amazon is pretty transparent in regards to the voice data Alexa is storing, a quick look on their website tells us that. But what about Google, their biggest competitor in the Smart Home space? Google is fairly transparent as well, though as previously mentioned in the intro post, changing your privacy settings may impact your service. Google’s privacy policy website tells us that they are mostly using your saved data to improve searches and targeted ads, see this video below:

These are great examples of transparency from these corporations and they outline relatively mundane uses for your data but it’s still important to understand. The future consequences of these corporations having your stored data should be the biggest concern. Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt said in 2010:

“One of the things that eventually happens … is that we don’t need you to type at all,” later adding: “Because we know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less guess what you’re thinking about.”

Eric Schmidt

Adapt that quote to the Smart Home and eventually Google doesn’t need you to speak to Google Home, rather the A/C just changes to suit your pre-determined preferences when you arrive home because of patterns in your stored data combined with Artificial Intelligence. Alexa doesn’t need you to tell her to order paper towels, they just show up because all of your stored data has told them it’s time for another shipment.

While these specific examples of transparency regarding data storage are promising, consider how much you’re willing to give away and where the line is with your data privacy. Consider the fact that these devices are always listening and while the corporations behind them may be simply using this data to “train” their AI, the government or third party apps could be using this data for other reasons.

In 2018 law enforcement subpoenaed Amazon for Amazon Echo data as evidence in a criminal trial for murder. The lines between privacy, technology and criminal justice are changing daily. Amazon is not the only tech company that has had this happen, Fitbit and Apple have run into similar situations.  While most technology companies are quick to defend consumer privacy the question still stands:


How much of your personal privacy are you willing to
give away?


Letting AI into our daily lives is not something to fear but maintaining control over data and privacy should be a top concern. There’s many ways to protect your privacy, or at least limit your exposure, while utilizing the benefits of Smart Home tech. Awareness is the first step in achieving enhanced privacy. Visit 101 Data Protection Tips for a comprehensive list of ways to attempt to protect your privacy.


Up next: DNA Testing: Is knowing your heritage worth risking your privacy?


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Robotics: Automation or Artificial Intelligence?

The rise of robotics – a long touted seismic shift in human existence, the day an inanimate creature is brought to life.  A scary reality in the minds of many conspiracy theorists, and a reality many tech leaders would have us believe is already upon us.  But how close are we to engineering a robotic race?

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

George Orwell, 1984

It’s difficult to not think about physical robots tackling common human tasks when we see the word robotics, but now robotics refers to a much larger application of technology and rising industry. Robotics refers to a focus on creating efficiency and replicating mundane tasks, a world that exists beyond purely physical robots, giving rise to automation bots.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is an example of an automation bot operating in a digital world. You may be thinking, obviously it’s automation, it’s even in the name, but what is RPA? Used to perform simple, repetitive tasks, such as data entry, RPA is a programmable “bot” that automates a process in order to free up more time for humans that would otherwise be doing these mundane tasks. RPA cannot be considered Artificial Intelligence as it does not have the ability to understand the implications of the tasks it is performing, or predict future scenarios arising from the performance of these tasks.

Amazon Scout

In contrast, Amazon’s Scout is out on the streets in California, a physical robot, making package deliveries.  This Scout robot may be physical and operate in the real world but similarly to RPA it is another example of automation, lacking human intuition. Just like RPA this Scout robot is programmed to deliver a package straight to your door, removing this repetitive task, lessening the burden on man and machine, but the bot is not capable of modifying the delivery location to the back door under the overhang when rain is predicted, unless the delivery instructions are explicitly programmed to do so.  Far from artificial intelligence, the Scout is simply a machine programmed to automate a repetitive human function.

While individuals commonly mistake robotics as artificial intelligence, it’s important to understand why RPA and delivery robots are not examples of true artificial intelligence. Are they intelligent bots? Maybe. They certainly process and execute complicated instructions and factor many variables, but they lack inherent cognitive function.  Humans are constantly concerned about the demise of humanity as robots are brought to life, but because artificial intelligence still lacks the ability to replicate common sense, the rise of the robotic race will still remain in the halls of science fiction.



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Chatbots, Influencer Bots, Gaming Bots, Oh my!

As it becomes
increasingly difficult to get the attention of executives and consumers through
email and advertisements, many companies are turning to Artificial
Intelligence. But the real question remains, what are the ethics behind
corporations using bots to promote their goods and services?

Chatbots have shown
real ROI to many businesses and at times have proven more effective than an
under-trained salesforce. An
Oracle survey
has shown that Chatbots could save $174 Billion across
Insurance, Financial Services, Sales, and Customer Service. With vast
abilities, including the ability to chat with actual human dialogue it’s no
wonder companies are so eager and quick to turn to this advancement in AI.
Should a company be ethically responsible to share with consumers that they are
chatting with a bot? Is this on the consumer to “beware” of bots? Do
we as a society care? Should we care?

Influencer Bots, like LilMiquela and Shudu, use CGI and are run by companies specializing in Artificial Intelligence to blend the lines between reality and robot. These two influencer bots have amassed almost 2 million followers and “LilMiquela” is touted as “Musician, change-seeker, and robot with the drip💧💖” in her Instagram Bio. These bots are influencing the purchases we make, the culture we enjoy and now even the music industry. Lil Miquela’s profile is at least honest that she is a bot but Shudu’s bio vaguely states: “The World’s First Digital Supermodel.”


In a world where social media is influencing so many consumer purchasing decisions, especially in younger demographics, is it even ethical to create an influencer bot?


Gaming bots, when
used as intended, can often enhance the gaming experience. For example,
Fortnite has upped their bots’ ability in order to maintain an enjoyable
experience for new comers in their vast online community. However, most gamers
know that bots have often been abused since the idea of using an algorithm to
replace a human online became a reality. Many have used the bot technology to
their advantage and there are companies out there doing something about it.
Niantic, creator of one of the most popular cell phone apps ever, Pokemon Go,
has been extremely strict on bots and gamers trying to cheat the system, going
so far as to take
legal action
.

With bots becoming
one of the most common Artificial Intelligence interacted with daily we need to
start questioning the ethical implications. How are AI empowered bots improving
our daily lives? What are the implications of influencer bots like Lil Miquela
and Shudu on the future of our society? How aware are you that Artificial
Intelligence is impacting your purchasing decisions?


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Data Bias on the Daily: Criminal Sentencing- Not all algorithms are created equal

Imagine This…. You’ve been convicted of a non-violent crime, say petty theft. Your legal team decides the best course of action is to take a plea deal. On the day of your sentencing, the judge rejects your plea deal and doubles your sentence. Why? An algorithm says that you are at high risk for violent crime in the future…

You may be reading
this thinking, that can’t possibly be real? But that is an all too real
scenario because of the COMPAS algorithm.


COMPAS, an acronym for Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions, is a case management and decision support tool used by U.S. courts to assess the likelihood of a defendant becoming a repeat offender.


The problem with COMPAS, as a ProPublica report states, “Only 20 percent of the people predicted to commit violent crimes actually went on to do so.” ProPublica also concluded that the algorithm was twice as likely to falsely flag black defendants as future criminals as it was to falsely flag white defendants. And therein lies the problem, the algorithm has inherently biased training data due to years of human bias in the courtroom.

COMPAS is not only
biased racially, but it also has bias against age and gender. An independent
study done by researchers at Cornell University and Microsoft found that
because most of the training data for COMPAS was based on male offenders the
model is not as good at distinguishing between male and female as it could be.
They even decided to make a separate COMPAS model aimed specifically at
recidivism risk prediction for women.

But why would COMPAS
separate the data based solely on gender when COMPAS has also shown to have
racial bias? Why are judicial systems still turning to private, for-profit,
companies whose algorithms are known to support racial, age and gender bias?

Turning to these
types of algorithms have long standing implications on human life and our
judicial system. Criminals receiving their sentences in the early ages of
algorithmic adoption should not be test samples or guinea pigs for faulty and
biased algorithms. As Artificial Intelligence becomes more main stream,
understanding the data sets and training methodologies is key to understanding
the results – how is data bias affecting your daily life?


For more information
on COMPAS and ProPublica’s report, please click
here
.

Up next: DNA Testing: Is knowing your heritage worth risking your privacy?

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Data Bias on the Daily

Our upcoming September Blog series is Data Bias on the Daily: How Data Bias in Artificial Intelligence is Impacting You. This series will focus on data bias in various forms encountered daily and the goal is to educate consumers on how bias can enter algorithms, knowingly and unknowingly. It is important to define bias:

Bias: The systematic favoritism that is present in the data collection process, resulting in lopsided, misleading results.

How to Identify Statistical Bias

Bias in Artificial Intelligence and algorithms is sometimes intentional, can be caused by a number of things including, but not limited to, sample selection or data collection, and can be avoidable, if that is the desired outcome. (Many corporations want to write their algorithms with bias, in order to increase their bottom line.)

Maybe you’re a woman searching for a STEM job, but the data is biased against your application? Perhaps, your Amazon search is biased towards products and brands that will only increase Amazon’s bottom line? Data bias is even entering our judicial system, is it possible that algorithmic “advancement” is simply confirming long standing racial bias?


Stay tuned to learn more about how Data Bias impacts our daily lives by checking in with us on Mondays in September (9/16, 9/23 and 9/30).



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Artificial Intelligence… A Buzz Word?

It’s a super-computer. It’s
technology.  It’s a Computer Brain.  It’s a….
Buzz Word?


Artificial Intelligence or “AI” is all the rage in consumer goods and services, and analysts say it will change the face of business forever, but what exactly is “Artificial Intelligence”. The market has failed to define what this ambiguous buzz word means, but yet investors are readily throwing billions of dollars at companies that claim to be “AI- Focused”.  According to the Financial Times,

“Companies branded as AI businesses have historically raised larger funding rounds and secured higher valuations than other software businesses. The median funding round for an AI start-up last year was about 15 per cent higher than for a software start-up.”

Financial Times

And yet investors struggle to understand what Artificial Intelligence means.  Is it the technology?  Is it the application?  Is it the result?

Artificial Intelligence has become a catch-all phrase for various
types of computer and data science technologies and applications aimed at
automating work and aiding in decision making.  
Articles on the proliferation of AI in the enterprise market speak to
the vast potential use cases, the efficiencies, the streamlined customer
experience, but fail to define the technology. Instead, authors caveat their
prophecies with statements which undermine the entire industry, “Granted, not
all AI systems are alike. Some of them are relatively ‘dumb,’ because they use
pre-determined inputs and outputs”. 
Enterprise organizations have been leveraging “If/Then” logic
programming for decades to optimize their operations, from PLCs on the
manufacturing floor, to excel sheets in the board room or sales office.  Is a simple system that has pre-determined
inputs and outputs anything more than a logic sequence? 

In truth, Artificial Intelligence is a combination of complex technologies which together have the power to change the way we do business, but how many companies have successfully developed the advanced integrated technology to deliver this seismic shift in enterprise value?  True Artificial Intelligence requires much more than a logic sequence – from system agnostic data connectivity, neural networking, autonomous data-cleansing, to machine learning, automated root cause analysis and continuously learning autonomous decision making and self-scripting technologies – the technology that will transform enterprise operations and ultimately, organizational value, has arrived, but true Artificial Intelligence is far less prevalent than a market summary would lead you to believe…