A Cambridge Analytica-style scandal over AI is coming.


The breathless pace of growth means data protection regulators must prepare for another scandal like Cambridge Analytica, says EU data watchdog Wojciech Wierowski.

Wiewiórowski is the European Data Protection Supervisor, and he is a powerful man. Its role is to hold the EU accountable for its own data protection practices, monitor the cutting edge of technology and coordinate enforcement across the Union. I spoke to him about lessons to be learned from the past decade in technology and what Americans should understand about the EU’s data protection philosophy. Here’s what he said.

What should tech companies learn? That products should have privacy features built into them from the start. But “it’s not easy to convince companies to adopt models with privacy by design when they need to deliver faster,” he said. Cambridge Analytica is a great lesson in what can happen when companies cut corners when it comes to data protection, Wiwirowski said. In one of Facebook’s biggest ad scandals, the company deleted tens of millions of Americans from their Facebook accounts in an attempt to influence voting. It is only a matter of time until we see another scandal, he added.

What Americans should understand about the EU’s data protection philosophy: “The European approach is related to the purpose for which you used the data. So when you change the purpose for which the data is used, and specifically make it out of the information you give to people, you break the law,” he said. Take Cambridge Analytica. It’s purposeful — mainly to create political profiles of people. That’s the point made by data protection authorities in Italy, where they temporarily banned ChatGPT. Officials said OpenAI collected data it wanted to use illegally and didn’t tell people how it intended to use it.

Does regulation stifle innovation? This is a common claim among technologists. Wiewiórowski is asking the right question: Are we really sure we want to give companies unlimited access to our personal data? “I don’t think the regulations … really stop innovation. They are trying to make it more civilized,” he says. GDPR, after all, protects not only personal data, but trade and the free flow of information across borders.

Big Tech Hell on Earth? Europe is not the only one playing hardball with technology. As reported last week, the White House is rolling out AI accountability rules, and the Federal Trade Commission has gone so far as to require companies to destroy their algorithms and data that has been illegally collected and used. In the year In 2022. Wiwirowski said he’s happy to see President Biden asking tech companies to take more responsibility for the security of their products, and finds it encouraging that US policy thinking is aligning with European efforts to prevent AI risks and harm companies. . “One of the biggest players in the technology market once said, ‘The definition of hell is European law with American enforcement,'” he said.

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