This Guest Post is written By Anoushna Bardhan, USA
Is the Development of Artificial Intelligence in Security Ethical?
The evolution of surveillance has helped to significantly deter the amount of crime in society. A study by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2013 found half of the surveyed thieves would flee after noticing video surveillance was monitoring their activities. Governments have also invested in surveillance. Dubai is among the most closely surveilled cities in the world with 35,000 cameras throughout the city — it also has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Video surveillance requires, however, intensive human labor to monitor the footage. This can dramatically increase the costs for businesses and community policing programs. Today, artificial intelligence is stepping in to alleviate this problem. Various artificial intelligence surveillance techniques are being used to track and monitor processed data. This development offers both benefits and consequences for societies, in particular human rights advocates and activists. The abuse of surveillance, especially by authoritarian regimes such as in Syria and China, has raised ethical concerns over human rights violations and personal privacy.
Artificial intelligence software is continuously developing to improve its efficiency and its response to human desires and needs. The machine-based learning algorithms are able to learn and improve its software — the software can be trained to observe tiny details in live stream videos. The algorithms monitor and analyze footage for behavioral analytic and detection purposes. Machine-based vision can be programmed to notify officials of even the slightest deviations detected in human behaviors. This analysis allows officials to identify suspicious behavior and security threats that may have been overlooked by humans who have not undergone intensive and costly training.
The benefits of artificial intelligence in the surveillance infrastructure are harnessed by security forces to assist in monitoring and observing suspicious behavior. Artificial intelligence-enabled software programs are able to detect unattended objects in public spaces such as shopping malls, airports, and subways. The use of these new software programs helps ease the workloads of security officials. Retail enterprises are also harnessing artificial intelligence to defer theft. For instance, Walmart uses behavioral analytics to detect suspicious behavior within its stores.
The potentially invasive consequences of major developments in the surveillance field are raising ethical concerns and encouraging policy and lawmakers to find ways to strengthen the benefits that artificial intelligence brings without compromising the freedoms granted to members of society. Artificial intelligence surveillance software was used by the oppressive Syrian regime to target any opposition. China has also used invasive artificial intelligence software to censor its citizens. Even democratic India hasshut down internet access in certain regions to curb protests. For instance, in 2019 the internet in regions of India was shut down 95 times in an attempt to maintain public order and prevent an escalation of violence during times of unrest. These restrictive actions raise questions about government surveillance, whether they are undertaken in the interest of its citizens or to protect its own survival in the face of criticism or opposition.
Interestingly, in the aftermath of atrocities and conflicts, artificial intelligence has played a crucial role in helping victims bring justice to war criminals. For example, the human rights group Syrian Archives has been archiving evidence against the Syrian regime and military since 2017. After amassing a large amount of evidence that was difficult to sort through, the group turned to Visual Forensics and Metadata Extraction (VFRAME)for help on harnessing artificial intelligence. The VFRAME project employs machine learning to advance human-rights work. Their algorithm works by using object recognition to find all relevant data, which is then collated to create a legal case to prosecute crimes against humanity.
Every development in society comes with consequences and benefits. The desire to police society to prevent crime will lead to more sophisticated artificial intelligence surveillance programs being developed. The key is for society to protect its ability to openly question crime prevention techniques and laws whenever the deployment of artificial intelligence surveillance programs are deemed to reduce rather than expand a sense of safety within society. While the abuse of artificial intelligence programs by bad actors occurs — and have been documented by human rights advocates — the door to a safer future aided by artificial intelligence has been well and truly opened.