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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Facebook. AI. The giant suspends changes. “The damage would be irreversible”

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Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, among others, wanted to use user data to train artificial intelligence (AI), but refrained from doing so after complaints from European non-governmental organizations. The company is “disappointed” with the protests, but personal data protection experts point out that “the damage would be irreversible.”

A few days ago, Meta – the owner of Facebook and Instagram – announced that it will use user data in Europe to train its artificial intelligence model. What data is this? Everything we leave on social media, such as entries and photos, was to be included in the AI ​​database.

The company wanted – according to the declaration – to analyze “information about people to identify patterns, such as the understanding of colloquial phrases or local references, and not to identify a specific person or their information.” Meta also emphasized that the data of Europeans are already being used by, among others, Google or OpenAI (creator of ChatGPT).

Some users felt concerned that their data would be used without their explicit consent. Meta decided that all people who use its services consent to such use of their data. Theoretically, it was possible to object, but it was not that easy. The meta requires completing an application and writing a justification. It also reserved the right to reject the objection. The new regulations were to enter into force on June 26. It was supposed to, because it won't come into force yet.

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“None of your business,” he fights

Meta withdrew its plans, among others. under the influence of protests from non-governmental organizations such as the European Center for Digital Rights (also known as NOYB – “none of your business”). Complaints regarding this matter were submitted to 11 personal data protection authorities in Europe (including the Polish Office for Personal Data Protection). Finally, the Irish Data Protection Commission announced that Meta had decided to put its plans in Europe on hold.

This is important because the European headquarters of Meta is located in… Ireland.

– The application of the provisions of the GDPR should be uniform throughout the European Union, therefore the activities of the Personal Data Protection Office in this matter must be harmonized with those undertaken by other authorities – says Mirosław Wróblewski, President of the Personal Data Protection Office. In a message sent to the business editorial office of tvn24.pl, the president adds that the processing of personal data using artificial intelligence mechanisms must respect the provisions on the protection of personal data and the supervisory authorities will jointly take action and support each other in a situation where there is a risk of privacy breaches. data subjects.

Meta decided to suspend the changes in Europe, but the company does not hide its dissatisfaction. In an official statement, the company announced that it was “disappointed” with the protests because “the delay will deprive European users of artificial intelligence innovations.”

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Why did Meta's actions cause such controversy?

– The most disturbing aspect is that Meta did not ask users to consent to the processing of personal data in order to use AI technology (opt-in). Instead, users must go through a complicated process of expressing objections, we hear in NOYB.

Prof. Przegalińska: Artificial intelligence reasons, but we wouldn't call it thinkingTVN24

– This is particularly concerning because there are virtually no restrictions on data processing to use AI technology. This means that all posts, photos and so on can be used to train Meta's artificial intelligence. Facebook and Instagram users would essentially lose their right to data protection – comment the organization's specialists for the tvn24.pl business editorial team.

Why is this so disturbing? Because once data is used, it cannot be recovered or withdrawn from the AI ​​database. Katarzyna Szymielewicz, director of strategy and advocacy at the Panoptykon Foundation, explains: – If the change in privacy policy were passed without opposition, the damage to our privacy would be irreversible. Even if a court or a personal data protection authority later found that this action violated the GDPR, such an operation cannot be reversed, he says.

“Europe has potential”

Meta lost this battle, but she doesn't give up. Stefano Fratta, director of global engagement, strikes dramatic tones in a statement published by the company. “As one of the most influential regions in the world, Europe has the potential to become a competitive leader in AI innovation,” argues Fratta. “But questions still remain: Will Europeans have equal access to breakthrough AI? Will AI experiences reflect our culture, humor and history? Or does Europe want to watch the rest of the world benefit from truly innovative technology that builds community and drives growth? ?” – he asks.

“None of the big platforms will give up without a fight”

Activists are convinced that the case will continue. – We expect further attempts of this type – we hear in NOYB. – We will watch them closely.

Katarzyna Szymielewicz says something similar. – Meta has not yet said the last word in this battle for personal data protection. AI training on user data is something that none of the large platforms will give up without a fight, says an expert from the Panoptykon Foundation.

– Their market advantage in the last decade was determined by the fact that they had access to the data of billions of people and the ability to predict and shape their online behavior. Neither analysis of human behavior on such a scale nor influence on it, for example through appropriately profiled advertisements, would be possible without artificial intelligence algorithms – he adds.

Many users perceived the activities of large platforms neutrally. However, something has changed and the protests against Meta's activities may be an example of this… – Gradually, thinking about technology companies and their social responsibility is evolving in the same direction as our thinking about tobacco companies or fuel companies. And this is a much-needed change, says Katarzyna Szymielewicz.

Author:Natalia Szostak

Main photo source: Wolf-photography/Shutterstock

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