Mark Minevich is president of Going Global Ventures, advisor to the Boston Consulting Group, digital fellow at IPsoft and a leading global AI expert, as well as a digital cognitive strategist and venture capitalist.
Other contributions from this contributor
- The American AI initiative: a good first step among many
Irakli Beridze is head of the Center for AI and Robotics at the United Nations Interregional Research Institute for Crime and Justice (UNICRI).
The emergence of the novel corona virus has caused a stir in the world. COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has spread to virtually every corner of the world. The number of cases exceeds one million and the number of deaths worldwide is over 50,000. It is a situation that affects us all in one way or another.
With the imposition of bans, restrictions on movement, the closure of borders and other measures to contain the virus, the operating environment of law enforcement agencies and security services designed to protect the public from harm has suddenly become more complex. They are in the midst of an unprecedented situation and play a vital role in curbing the spread of the virus and maintaining public security and social order. In response to this growing crisis, many of these agencies and institutions are turning to AI and related technologies in a unique and innovative way to get support. Improving monitoring, monitoring and detection capabilities is high on the list of priorities.
For example, at the start of the outbreak, Reuters reported a case in China in which the authorities relied on facial recognition cameras to persecute a Hangzhou man who had traveled to an affected area. When he returned home, the local police were there to instruct him to quarantine himself or to have an effect. Police in China and Spain have also started using quarantine enforcement technologies. Drones are used to patrol and broadcast audio messages and encourage them to stay at home. People flying to Hong Kong Airport receive surveillance wristbands that notify the authorities if they violate the quarantine by leaving their homes.
In the United States, a surveillance company announced that its AI-enhanced thermal cameras can detect fever, while in Thailand border guards at airports are already operating a biometric screening system with fever detection cameras.
Individual cases or the new standard?
Given the alarmingly increasing number of cases, deaths and countries that are locked, we can assume that these are not isolated examples of technological innovations in response to this global crisis. Over the coming days, weeks, and months of this outbreak, more and more AI use cases will most likely come to the fore.
While the use of AI can play an important role in conquering the reins in this crisis and can even protect officials and officials from infection, we must not forget that their use can raise very real and serious human rights concerns that can be harmful and undermine them Community confidence in the government. Human rights, civil liberties and the basic principles of law can be exposed or damaged if we do not take this route with great care. There can be no going back when Pandora's box is open.
In a public statement on March 19, the United Nations Free Speech and Media Observers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Representative for Media Freedom of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe issued a joint statement on promoting and protecting access to and free flow of information during the pandemic and noted in particular the increasing use of surveillance technologies to track the spread of the coronavirus. They acknowledged the need for active efforts to fight the pandemic, but stressed that “it is also vital that such tools be used in a limited manner, both in terms of purpose and time, and that individual rights to privacy, non-discrimination , The protection of journalistic sources and other freedoms must be strictly protected. "
This is not an easy task, but a necessary one. So what can we do?
Ways to use AI responsibly to fight the coronavirus pandemic
- Data anonymization: While some countries are tracking individual suspect patients and their contacts, Austria, Belgium, Italy and the United Kingdom collect anonymized data to investigate the movement of people more generally. This option continues to give governments the ability to track the movement of large groups, but minimizes the risk of data breaches.
- Purpose limitation: Personal data that is collected and processed to track the spread of the coronavirus should not be reused for any other purpose. National authorities should ensure that the large amounts of personal and medical information are used only for public health reasons. This concept is already in force in Europe under the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but it is time that it became a global principle for AI.
- Data exchange and open access data: António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, has insisted that "global action and solidarity are vital" and that we will not win this struggle alone. This applies to many levels, including the use of AI by law enforcement and security services in the fight against COVID-19. These agencies and bodies need to work with each other and with other key community stakeholders, including public and civil society organizations. AI use case and data should be shared and transparency promoted.
- Time limit: Although the end of this pandemic appears to be quite distant at this point, it will come to an end. In this case, national authorities will have to reduce their newly acquired surveillance functions after this pandemic. As Yuval Noah Harari noted in his recent article, "temporary measures have the nasty habit of surviving emergencies, especially as there is always a new emergency lurking on the horizon." We have to make sure that these extraordinary skills are actually reduced and do not become the new norm.
Within the United Nations system, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) is working to advance approaches to such AI. It has set up a specialized center for AI and robotics in The Hague and is one of the few international players that deal specifically with AI in terms of crime prevention and control, criminal justice, the rule of law and security. It helps national authorities, particularly law enforcement agencies, to understand the opportunities of these technologies while eliminating the potential pitfalls associated with these technologies.
In close cooperation with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), UNICRI has set up a global law enforcement platform that promotes the discussion of AI, identifies practical use cases and defines principles for responsible handling. A lot of work has been done in this forum, but it is still early and the road ahead is long.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed several innovative use cases and the urgency of governments to do everything possible to stop the virus from spreading, it is important to set aside fundamental principles, rights, and non-compliance with the law will. The positive power and potential of AI are real. It can help those involved in this struggle to slow the spread of this debilitating disease. It can help save lives. But we have to stay vigilant and commit to safe, ethical and responsible use of AI.
It is important that we remain aware of the duality of AI, even in times of great crisis, and make every effort to finally push AI forward.