Data Privacy First before AI Framework

A few days ago, I discovered that Malaysia already had plans for a National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Framework. It is led by Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and it will be ready by the end of 2019. A Google search revealed a lot news and announcements, with a few dating back to 2017, but little information of the framework itself. Then again, Malaysia likes to take the “father knows best” approach, and assumes that what it is doing shouldn’t be questioned (much). I will leave this part as it is, because perhaps the details of the framework is under the OSA (Official Secrets Act).

Are we AI responsible or are we responsible for AI?

But I would like to highlight the data privacy part that is likely to figure strongly in the AI Framework, because the ethical use of AI is paramount. It will have economical, social and political impact on Malaysians, and everybody else too. I have written a few articles on LinkedIn about ethics, data privacy, data responsibility, impact of AI. You can read about them in the links below:

I may sound like a skeptic of AI. I am not. I believe AI will benefit mankind, and bring far reaching developments to the society as a whole. But we have to careful and this is my MAIN concern when I voice about AI. I continue to question the human ethics and the human biases that go into the algorithms that define AI. This has always been the crux of my gripes, my concerns, my skepticism of everything we call AI. I am not against AI but I am against the human flaws that shape the algorithms of AI.

Everything is a Sheep (or a Giraffe)

A funny story was shared with me last year. It was about Microsoft Azure computer vision algorithm in recognizing visuals in photos. Apparently the algorithm of the Microsoft Azure’s neural network was fed with some overzealous data of sheep (or giraffes), and the AI system started to point out that every spot that it “saw” was either a sheep, or any vertical long ones was a giraffe.

In the photo below, there were a bunch of sheep on a tree. Check out the tags/comments in the red rectangle published by the AI neural network software below and see how both Microsoft Azure and NeutralTalk2 “saw” in the photo. You can read more about the funny story here.

This proves my point that if you feed the learning system and the AI behind it with biased and flawed information, the result can be funny (in this case here) or disastrous.

Data Privacy done badly is likely to affect AI Framework

Last week, I wrote about the lack of seriousness in how Malaysia and Malaysians approach data privacy. This data privacy issue has been perpetuating for many years, and the lack of solid enforcement has exacerbated the issue, prolonging our sufferings.

I see Data Privacy as the bedrock of Ethical Use of Information. Now my question to the authorities, to the responsible agencies, and to MDEC is “If our Data Privacy is treated poorly, can we expect Good Ethics to prevail in the National AI Framework?

Can we, as Malaysians, be assured that when the AI framework is implemented, we will protected against the misuse of algorithms in AI implementations? Will it be used for the greater good of the society, for the benefits of our citizens?

All of a sudden, my mind switches to Captain America – Winter Soldier. I recalled that the heli-carriers were fed with Hydra’s algorithm that will eliminate every human target who is a threat to Hydra (or its modern incarnation – S.H.I.E.L.D.).

Can a biased algorithm be used in the AI framework to sideline the dissents, the oppositions, the naysayers, and non-believers? China is doing it now with their advanced facial recognition systems with built-in AI to condition their citizens to not break the law, but at the expense of individual’s privacy. Is this what they want versus what we want? Who governs those who govern the rest?

It may sound farfetched but it is already happening.

In Conclusion

All I want is to see that there should be an ethical approach to Malaysia’s National AI Framework. I would like to see the ideas, the objectives and most importantly, the INTENT that go into the development of the AI algorithms. And if we do right, I believe Malaysia will go on to develop to be the best, and it will flourish as a great society of the future.

[Note: This was published in LinkedIn on Apr 7 2019]

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About cfheoh

I am a technology blogger with 25+ years of IT experience. I write heavily on technologies related to storage networking and data management because that is my area of interest and expertise. I introduce technologies with the objectives to get readers to *know the facts*, and use that knowledge to cut through the marketing hypes, FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and other fancy stuff. Only then, there will be progress. I am involved in SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) and as of October 2013, I have been appointed as SNIA South Asia & SNIA Malaysia non-voting representation to SNIA Technical Council. I currently run a small system integration and consulting company focusing on storage and cloud solutions, with occasional consulting work on high performance computing (HPC).

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