How AI Can Breach Data Privacy (& How to Prevent This)


Have you ever wondered how AI technology seems to always understand you, easing in and automating your daily activities, from health assessment with health apps like Neuralink to digital assistance through Siri, Alexa, and the like?

What makes this possible, and how does AI work with precision?

It’s your data. AI learns it to automate processes accurately. The downside is that it also risks your privacy. With your routine and credentials online, it only requires one hiccup to prey on your online privacy.

That’s why you should know data collection methods and ways to control its usage.

Three ways AI can collect sensitive data

Source: Freepik

Over 35% of companies across industries currently employ AI solutions in automation processes, and more will follow this digital trend. AI is used to observe the personal information you drop, intentionally or unintentionally, for analysis and recommendation. Some of the methods used are:

  1. Biometric Authentication

    Technological advancements have familiarized biometric authentication, from unlocking phones with fingerprint identification to smart buildings with automated functions.

    Customers willingly submit personal data online for identification, authentication, and verification.

    While it guarantees a higher level of security due to relying on your unique biological features to track potential threats, your data can be compromised and made vulnerable to financial or personality attacks.

  2. Social Media Monitoring

    Not too long ago, social media feeds showed content chronologically based on the date and time of posting. We’ve witnessed a shift from that pattern to content recommendation based on your preferences and interactions.

    Developers have achieved this through AI, which analyzes your social media activities using algorithms and advanced data analytics. The information gathered allows it to provide relevant content.

    That’s why when you search for a specific content type, the platform’s AI analyzes it and then shows similar content in your feed.

    Even if you don’t search or upload content to your page, AI can still recommend content based on your demographic data, such as place of residence.

  3. IoT Devices

    These are regular appliances like refrigerators and thermostats, but they can also connect to the Internet and exchange data. This allows them to automate tasks and give users remote access.

    For instance, you can monitor packages at your doorstep with the August Doorbell Cam or turn on the sound system with the Google Home Voice Controller.

    AI analyzes real-life trigger events gathered by these IoT device sensors and uses them to generate appropriate responses without requiring human input.

Three reasons why data privacy is a big concern with AI

Source: Pexels

AI’s impact has benefited industries like e-commerce, health, and finance. However, underlying ethical concerns remain about the AI data collection method, who has access to this data, and its usage. These concerns include:

  1. Potential for data breaches/unauthorized access

    In January 2023, the Duolingo app experienced a cyberattack that exposed data from 2.6 million customer accounts.

    The accounts were put up for sale at $2.13 with the note, “Today I have uploaded the Duolingo Scrape for you to download, thanks for reading and enjoy!”

    While the company insisted that no breach occurred and stated that it was a case of web scraping, it mirrors what could happen if the data gathered by AI falls into the wrong hands.

    From identity theft to cyberbullying, there are several ways such breaches can affect your online privacy.

  2. Data Abuse

    Fraudulent people can manipulate data gathered by AI. One example is the use of deepfakes.

    A deepfake is an image or video digitally manipulated to depict someone doing or saying things they never said or did. It’s used to create false news, negative opinions, or blackmail.

    Scammers can also use the user’s data to create scam emails to trick people into revealing sensitive information about themselves or clicking harmful links.

  3. Invasive Surveillance

    Law enforcement can use AI-based surveillance to improve security systems using data from sources like cameras.

    However, there are controversies about its potential to invade people’s privacy and infringe on civil liberties.

    People won’t know when and why they are being monitored. Also, AI may recommend specific demographics for unfair security checks based on its data.

    The lack of transparency can make individuals feel targeted and less trusting of the system.

How to prevent AI from breaching data privacy

Artificial Intelligence will seek ways to pry on your data. While regulations and data security measures exist to help protect your data online, you also play a vital role in protecting and safeguarding your data.

  • Always Read and Understand Online Agreement Contracts

    Privacy policy notes, cookies, and the terms of the service agreement contain information on how your data is collected, used, and distributed.

    However, many people miss these crucial details because they are either too eager to access the site or aren’t patient to read through. Understand that these notes are consent forms for how a company may handle your information.

    If you would only sign a work contract after reading and understanding its contents, you should give your online privacy the same priority. Know the implications before clicking “agree.”

  • Check for Opt-out Options

    Most websites and apps assume your consent by automatically signing you up for data collection. However, they provide opt-out options, which you’ll find under additional privacy tools and settings.

    This way, you can opt out of targeted ads and limit the data you share with third-party companies. Sometimes, the opt-out option will pop up, but if it doesn’t, ensure you check the settings.

  • Watch your Digital footprint

    Your digital footprint is a combination of your online activities, including your online profiles, interactions, and websites visited. If a scammer gathers this information, it can be used to organize targeted cyber-attacks.

    To protect yourself, periodically search the Internet for your name, delete non-functional accounts, change passwords regularly, and set alerts for your name.

    Be careful what you post online and remember to restrict app permissions. These are some ways to protect your online data and right to privacy.

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