You can switch off Siri, but not the State

Source: This post is based on the article “You can switch off Siri, but not the State” published in Indian Express on 16th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3- Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.

Relevance:  Artificial Intelligence and need for Data regulation.

Synopsis:  While there are plans for greater deployment of AI and harvesting of our data for various purposes, the lack of any rights paradigm w.r.t data protection in India is deeply unsettling.

What is ‘Artificial intelligence’ and ‘Deep learning’?

In 1956, John McCarthy wrote, “Artificial intelligence is allowing a machine to behave in such a way that it would be called intelligent if a human being behaved in such a way.” Siri, which Apple consumers are dependent on, is an example of artificial intelligence.

Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro’s new book, Klara and the Sun, book describes the process of “deep learning”. Where, artificial intelligence programmes are able to absorb information and start demonstrating reasoning of the kind which distinguishes us as humans.

How Individual’s data are captured in India?

In the world’s largest democracy of 1.3 billion people, increasingly more and more citizens have vital information on themselves stored as part of state or private data platforms.

Government Data: The government collects information for Aadhaar, for vaccinations on CoWin, from our tax returns, from our driving licence and a host of other instruments.

Private Data: Private platforms like Facebook, Twitter and a host of others collect unique information of our opinions, our likes and dislikes, our ideologies on their platforms.

How the Data is put to use and what are the concerns associated?

Based on this data, algorithms drive news and information that aligns with our beliefs to our Twitter or Facebook selves. For instance, Algorithms on OTT platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix or Hotstar recommend movies or serials we like based on our prior viewing.

But the use of algorithms is not just restricted to movie recommendations. It is being used in many other areas. For instance, the U.S uses AI to predict recidivism likelihood amongst prisoners and, therefore, to grant sentences based on machine predictions.

However, there are inherent issues associated with AI. For instance, the data being fed to create the algorithms reflects the opinions of the programmers feeding the information. For instance, is the zip code of where a person lives likely to indicate chances of committing fresh crimes.

What are the issues/challenges faced in India w.r.t Data collection and processing?

One, In India, citizens have no rights over their data or protection from its extraction and in general, against its misuse.

Two, there is no data protection law in place, even though a Bill is being discussed by the Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology.

Three, only protection at present is the Supreme Court’s Judgment in the Puttaswamy case, where it ruled that citizens have rights to informational privacy. Yet, in the absence of legislation, this proves difficult to implement.

Rightly, Niti Aayog notes that impediments to the greater use of AI include the lack of access to data, concerns for privacy and security.

Why the absence of Data protection laws in India is a concern?

Currently, the state has unilateral rights to collect and use our data, it has also given itself the ability to regulate private parties. For instance, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 are used to mandate that WhatsApp, which uses end-to-end encryption, must enable the identification of the first originator of the information.

Further, our government is thinking about the potential and inevitability of the greater use of AI. The 2018 Niti Aayog National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence points to the greater need for AI in sectors like education, healthcare and agriculture.

The papers also make clear that the aims of state policy include creating a data marketplace a “deployable model” in which it seeks to bring “buyers and sellers of data together”.

Amid these plans for greater deployment of AI and harvesting of our data, the lack of any rights paradigm provided by law is deeply disturbing.

It violates a constitutional premise that citizens must have their speech, expression, intellectual property and liberty rights protected.

Print Friendly and PDF