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article imageMozilla: Why we need to protect our digital privacy

By Tim Sandle     Apr 26, 2019 in Technology
Growing movements to protect digital privacy, build more responsible artificial intelligence, and rein in the power of the eight big tech companies are cited as the most positive developments for a healthier Internet in a new report from Mozilla.
In contrast, pervasive artificial intelligence bias, biometrics abuse and increased government censorship are called out as being the most disturbing trends, based on Mozilla's 2019 Internet Health Report. The report, issued by the Mozilla Foundation (the nonprofit creator of the Firefox browser and other open-source tools) identifies three issues that present both challenges and opportunities to building a healthier Internet.
These three areas are:
The need for better machine decision making. This ranges from who designs the algorithms to what data artificial intelligence systems feed on, to ensure artificial intelligence works for the good of humanity.
Rethinking the advertising economy, so that surveillance and addiction are no longer design necessities.
Considering the rise of smart cities, it will be key to use procurement contracts and other tools to persuade technology companies to adapt changes that serve the public interest not commercial interests.
What is life like online today?
The aim of the report is to provide a detailed picture of what life online looks like today. This is important to understand now as we are more connected than ever, with humanity passing the ‘50 percent of us are now online’ mark earlier this year, according to Mozilla Foundation Executive Director Mark Surman.
While there are many benefits to being online, there are negative aspects too which need to be addressed and challenged. Surman notes: "Millions of people were realizing that widespread, laissez-faire sharing of our personal data, the massive growth and centralization of the tech industry, and the misuse of online ads and social media was adding up to a big mess."
To take the Internet forwards, there are five areas that need a collective focus, with technology and governments taking the lead. In the report these are indicated to be: privacy and security, decentralization, openness, digital inclusion and web literacy.
Negative side of the Internet
In particular, what needs to be addressed is a growth in Internet censorship with some governments restricting Internet access either partly of completely. Another area of concern called out is with biometrics. As an example, in India, in excess of one billion citizens were put at risk by a vulnerability in Aadhaar, the government’s biometric ID system.
Another concern is with artificial intelligence. The report cites concerns whereby some technology firms are deploying artificial intelligence very quickly, bypassing some of the potential harms and externalities, especially in its application with law enforcement of finance. The concern is with people who are discriminated against by the technology. The Mozilla review calls for a strong role for ethics boards to monitor the development or implementation of such technologies.
Challenges and opportunities
To combat these, the report makes the case for considering the necessary challenges and opportunities for building a healthier Internet, which loops back to improved decision making; a new approach to advertising online; and having a better framework to assess smart cities.
More about Mozilla, Data privacy, digital privacy, Privacy, Artificial intelligence
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