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Google is bringing Bard to Android for ChatGPT-like question/answer functionality. But there’s a problem: it’ll be able to access and read all of your personal messages


TL:DR: Google’s AI For Android Spells Big Privacy Concerns

  • Google unveiled an AI upgrade for Android, enabling the AI to read and analyze users’ private messages to improve messaging experiences.
  • This AI, referred to as “Bard,” aims to enhance communication, creativity, and provide information within the messaging app, acting as a personal AI assistant.
  • Bard will analyze the context, tone, interests, sentiment, and relationship dynamics of conversations to personalize responses, raising privacy concerns among users.
  • While message requests to Bard will be encrypted and anonymized, they will be stored in the cloud for 18 months, raising concerns about data privacy and potential human review.

If you’re concerned about privacy and Google having far too much access to your personal data, and you run an Android phone, you’ll probably want to look away now.

AI is the latest trend in silicon valley, everybody is talking about it, implementing it, and thinking of ways to leverage it to make their business more efficient. Google is currently in the process of laying off around 30,000 employees in its ad department.

And, of course, the new Samsung Galaxy S24 series has AI at its heart, in the form of Galaxy AI. Bottomline? AI is here to stay and the road ahead is likely to be pretty bumpy as the world adjusts to this new technology.

Bard is Coming To Android

Google’s Android AI is A Massive Privacy Concern – Here’s HowPin

Android will soon get a lot more AI smarts, in the form of deeper integration of Google’s Bard AI. But there’s a problem, a rather alarming problem. Google’s new Android AI will have unfiltered access to your personal messages.

Why does it need this kind of access to your personal information? Google says that it does this so that Bard can learn more about you, how your write, your tone, and how you interact with those closest to you – so, not creepy at all then!

Thanks To AI, Google Will Be Able To Read All of Your Messages

Google’s fast and loose approach to user data collection is no longer a conspiracy theory; the search giant recently paid out $5 billion in a lawsuit for illegally tracking millions of users.

With AI, this kind of tracking is going to be easier and a whole lot more creepy. For instance, Google – with its new AI installed on your Android phone – will have unfiltered access to stuff that is deeply personal, stuff even the police wouldn’t be able to access without a warrant.

Should you be concerned? Yes. AI is currently in its “wild west” phase. It’s so new most people – those that don’t follow tech news and/or trends – have no idea about its current capabilities or how it could be used by tech companies like Google in nefarious ways.

Google says that all information used by its Android AI will be encrypted but it did confirm, according to Forbes, that it will analyze the context, tone, interests, sentiment, and relationship dynamics of conversations to personalize responses and this – for a million and one reasons – is a massive privacy issue.

All of this data will also be housed on Google’s cloud servers for 18 months which, again, is going to ruffle a few feathers. Who has access to this information? If a machine can access it, who is controlling the machine? Where does the puck stop? There’s just so many questions at this stage.

Bard For Android: Far Reaching, Massive Privacy Concerns

AI making your life easier is one thing. But AI reading all of your messages, private or otherwise, to make your life easier is a much harder sell which is why you likely won’t hear too much about this in the press.

Google faces the challenge of ensuring users that this AI integration won’t lead to privacy violations similar to past incidents with AI assistants and privacy issues. But here’s the rub: Google does not mind going to court. It has amazing lawyers and a near infinite about of money to throw at cases or settlements.

My personal opinion is that it doesn’t care; Google will do whatever it wants and then, if it gets itself into hot water, issue an apology, do a recall, or pay a fine and/or settlement. Regulations around AI are pretty thin on the ground right now but I expect this to change during 2024 and 2025.

EU’s AI Act

Google’s Android AI is A Massive Privacy Concern – Here’s HowPin

The European Union issued the first AI Act in 2023 which is designed to protect its citizens from companies using AI – be they mega corps like Google or startups.

The bill is far reaching and massive in its scope, outright banning things like social scoring and software that uses AI for facial scanning. The overall aim is to create a legal framework for artificial intelligence to operate in and to make AI as safe as possible.

At its core, the EU AI Act will adopt a risk-based approach, classifying AI systems into four different risk categories depending on their use cases: (1) unacceptable-risk, (2) high-risk, (3) limited-risk, (4) minimal/no-risk. The Act’s focus will likely lie on unacceptable-risk and high-risk AI systems, with both risk classes having received much attention in the EU Parliament’s and Council’s amendments and during the trilogue negotiations.

I’ve read the entire bill (which you can do here) and I am struggling to see how Google would be able to get around it with its new Android AI. Having access to users’ personal messages, messages that could include incriminating evidence, statements and other personal units of data, is certainly at odds with what the bill outlines.

The EU is the first in the world to set in place robust regulation on AI, guiding its development and evolution in a human-centric direction. The AI Act sets rules for large, powerful AI models, ensuring they do not present systemic risks to the Union and offers strong safeguards for our citizens and our democracies against any abuses of technology by public authorities. It protects our SMEs, strengthens our capacity to innovate and lead in the field of AI, and protects vulnerable sectors of our economy. The European Union has made impressive contributions to the world; the AI Act is another one that will significantly impact our digital future.

Dragos Tudorache (Renew, Romania)

But this is Google we’re talking about here. It doesn’t tend to play by the rules, so I guess we’ll just have to see how this one plays out. Me? There’s no way I’d allow Google’s services willing access to my personal messages, regardless of whether it is a human working there or a robot.

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