Discover more from Marcus on AI
The dirty underbelly of AI
Surveillance capitalism just keeps going and going
In January, Billy Perrigo broke the upsetting story about exploited Kenyan workers getting paid less than $2/hour to look at disturbing content for a company, Sama, that was working with OpenAI; I hope you have already read his story and some of the subsequent investigations.
But here’s someone else the AI industry is taking advantage of: you.
You already knew of course that Facebook (now Meta) and Google were harnessing every bit of data it could, in part to place ads and probably also to train their models. You might have known that Zoom wants to listen in on your conversations to train their AI models.
But did you know that even your car probably is harnessing massive amounts of deeply personal data, too? And not just where you go (probably perhaps regularly) but its best guess about what are you doing with your life? Mozilla just released a blockbuster report. You should really read the whole thing. But a few highlights:
Mozilla looked at 25 different car companies. Every single one of the had terms of service that allow them to invade user’s privacy.
They can and probably do collect an awful lot. And what they can’t collect, they are probably trying to make guesses about. Quoting from Mozilla, “They can collect information about how much money you make, your immigration status, race, genetic information, and sexual activity (it’s in there!). Heck, they’ll even help themselves to your photos, your calendar, and your to-do list if you’ll let them.”
All (or a lot of) that data gets sold. Needless to say, you don’t get a cut.
Want to opt out? Good luck. Check out this passage from Tesla’s Terms of Service, for example, “if you no longer wish for us to collect vehicle data or any other data from your Tesla vehicle, please contact us to deactivate connectivity. Please note, certain advanced features such as over-the-air updates, remote services, and interactivity with mobile applications and in-car features such as location search, Internet radio, voice commands, and web browser functionality rely on such connectivity. If you choose to opt out of vehicle data collection (with the exception of in-car Data Sharing preferences), we will not be able to know or notify you of issues applicable to your vehicle in real time. This may result in your vehicle suffering from reduced functionality, serious damage, or inoperability.” [boldface from Mozilla’s discussion]
One can imagine an alternative AI paradigm that could learn much of what it needed to know to be effective in the world without going through all your personal data, but that does not yet exist. The paradigm we have right now is so data-greedy that the entire public internet doesn’t seem to be enough. Your private data are going to feed the insatiable beast, too — like it or not.
Gary Marcus hopes that on balance AI will help you rather than hurt you. But he’s not so sure we should take that notion for granted.