Partnership on AI: Protection from Robots, or Protecting Privacy?

The Partnership on AI – a group founded by Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google/DeepMind, IBM, and Microsoft – held its first meeting recently, and should be sharing more details on its plans soon. For now, here’s what we know:

Established to study and formulate best practices on AI technologies, to advance the public’s understanding of AI, and to serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society.

While we’re growing accustomed to tech powerhouses uniting behind larger causes, the idea of partnering on AI has caused a bit of a stir in the media. According to one article from Business Insider, for example:

“…[The] Partnership on AI is working to ensure that AI is developed safely and ethically, thereby avoiding the nightmare robot uprising scenarios that have been described by the likes of renowned scientist Stephen Hawking and Tesla billionaire Elon Musk.”

Partnership on Artificial Intelligence hopes to invite ‘academics, non-profits and specialists in policy and ethics’ to join. Photograph: Alamy

For all the talk of a post-apocalyptic world run by robots, AI itself is not scary. It is a tool being used to serve customers and businesses. It’s important to be clear about what AI is (a lot of math!), and what it’s not (a machine coming to get you).

The one thing we do need to be concerned about is privacy. AI projects today are powered by the big data stores that companies have been amassing over the past decade-plus. In many cases this includes loads of individual customer data. In order to use AI safely and ethically, businesses need to be transparent with the types of data they’re collecting, and how they’re using it. Currently, those best practices and industry standards don’t exist.

When it comes down to it, using AI technology can actually help protect consumers’ privacy. By anonymizing data in a way that only machines can read, we can keep personally identifiable information out of the hands of humans while still providing the personalization benefits to businesses and their customers. We at Grey Jean Technologies have taken this approach from day one, and will continue to do so moving forward.

In short, our hope for the Partnership on AI is that it will help businesses be better proprietors of data. Most current AI methodologies serve business needs rather than prioritizing customers. Our goal at Grey Jean is to help turn that tide, and create a dynamic that is beneficial to everyone, from organizations to individuals. If that vision is aligned with the Partnership, you can expect to see us joining forces.