UN Expert Raises Concerns about Misuse of AI in Surveillance of Activists and Journalists, Urges Stronger Safeguards

Introduction: Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, a United Nations expert, has brought attention to the troubling misuse of artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies in surveilling activists and journalists. Ní Aoláin highlighted the worrisome trend of using counter-terrorism justifications to justify invasive and risky surveillance methods, including AI. She emphasized the necessity of implementing safeguards and called for a halt in AI development until these measures are in place.

Read More: The Unethical Use of AI in Surveillance: Ní Aoláin criticized the deceptive practice of employing AI-powered surveillance technologies under the pretext of combating terrorism. She cautioned that without adequate oversight, both governments and private entities can exploit AI to spy on individuals, encroaching upon their rights and freedoms. She also stressed the potential for abusive practices when surveillance technologies are used in counter-terrorism efforts.

Challenges in Regulating AI: Ní Aoláin acknowledged the complexity of regulating AI and identified it as one of the most difficult challenges governments currently face. Implementing suitable regulations and safeguards for AI usage is a daunting task. While some experts argue for sensible regulation, the absence of proper oversight raises concerns about the potential impacts on human rights.

Read Also: The Role of AI in Surveillance: AI is regarded as a high-risk technology due to its extensive range of applications. It is already integrated into domains such as law enforcement, national security, criminal justice, and border management systems. AI algorithms can be utilized to create individual profiles, predict behavior, and identify potential criminal or terrorist activities. Ní Aoláin emphasized the significant privacy and human rights implications associated with the collection and usage of such data.

Concerns About AI Assessments: Ní Aoláin expressed unease regarding the reliance on AI assessments as the sole basis for state actions in counter-terrorism contexts. She cautioned against exclusively depending on AI assessments to initiate measures like searches, interrogations, arrests, prosecutions, and surveillance. Considering the inherently probabilistic nature of AI, she emphasized that AI assessments should not be the sole determinant of reasonable suspicion.

Conclusion: The report by the UN expert sheds light on the troubling exploitation of AI and other advanced technologies for surveillance purposes, particularly in the name of countering terrorism. Ní Aoláin calls for a halt in AI development until proper safeguards are established. The report underscores the urgent need for responsible regulation to safeguard human rights and prevent the misuse of AI in surveillance activities.

Read Next: Addressing the Ethical Concerns Surrounding AI in Counter-Terrorism Measures

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