The Proliferation of AI Creates an Even Bigger Need for VPNs

19 August 2021

AI is on the rise. However, the fast growth creates severe security and privacy risks, thus creating the need for VPNs.

Data privacy is one of the biggest concerns in the world today. The digital revolution has left consumers constantly worried about losing their personal and financial information to hackers, phishers, and other internet fraudsters. 

According to one study whose findings are now available in the Security Magazine, about 75% (three-quarters) of Americans are “very concerned” about online privacy. Indeed, one Tech Republic study shows that 79% of digital consumers think online users have “lost all control” over how their information is collected. 

Yet, experts predict that artificial intelligence (AI) will make things worse. While it makes work easier by enabling automation and machine learning, AI creates massive security and privacy loopholes that may leave consumers even more exposed to risk. 

The Link Between AI and Privacy 

We’ve seen tremendous growth in data collected and processed by companies and organizations for close to three decades now. Some studies even claim the volume of data in use doubles every two years, while others say we now produce quintillions of data every year. 

However, we’ve seen even more data production and processing in recent years. Besides more computing devices entering the fray, processing speeds have shot, and storage volumes are expanding. Now we have the ultra-fast 5G network that transmits up to 100 GB/s and cloud servers that store near-endless volumes of data. Soon, we’ll enter the age of quantum computing. 

Artificial Intelligence is one of the critical drivers of this exponential data growth. By facilitating faster processing and wide ruse of data, AI directly encourages organizations and companies to collect more data, in a wider variety. 

AI provides the tools for cleaning the different data pools and processing all kinds of data structures to extract insight. It also provides the tools for better data mapping. Thus, all data is now important. It means you can now collect data more confidently, knowing that you have the tools to process it. 

Unfortunately, scaling the three V’s of the internet of things, i.e., volume, velocity, and variety, also creates security and privacy issues. Why? Because most of the data collected for analysis today is very sensitive. Furthermore, as artificial intelligence evolves, it magnifies the ability to use personal information in ways that may intrude on individual privacy. 

Abuse of Privacy in Facial Recognition: A Classic Case

Take facial recognition, for example. Facial recognition is an AI-powered technology that provides an extra layer of security, allowing organizations and device manufacturers to provide access based on specified facial features. 

It’s highly effective to the extent that facial recognition is already used in major airports, offices, and government offices throughout the world. Unfortunately, facial recognition is also typifies everything that’s wrong with AI in relation to privacy. 

Nowhere is this best exemplified than China. China’s facial recognition system logs nearly every single citizen in the country. The country has a vast network of cameras across the major cities that allow it to monitor pretty much everyone’s move. 

A 2019 database leak gave a glimpse into how pervasive China’s surveillance tools are, indicating that the country captures more than 6.8 billion facial recognition records daily. The data is captured from cameras positioned around hotels, parks, tourism spots, and mosques, with records available for people as young as nine. 

The country was recently accused of using facial recognition data to commit atrocities against Uyghur Muslims. 

“China uses facial recognition to profile Uyghur individuals, classify them based on their ethnicity, and single them out for tracking, mistreatment, and ultimately detention,” says a report from a group of 17 US senators released in March 2020.

There are many other ways organizations and even individuals may leverage artificial intelligence to invade personal privacy.  

For instance, China also relies on artificial intelligence to censor social media use in the country. The government tracks all social media users and restricts what they can and cannot access. You might be aware that some social networks are completely banned in the country. They rely on artificial intelligence to ensure no one can access these sites from their territory. Meanwhile, in the permitted social networks, content is heavily regulated. The government can pretty much take down content that doesn’t align with the country’s beliefs. 

VPNs to the Rescue 

Virtual private networks may not solve all privacy issues arising from artificial intelligence. However, they can go a long way to addressing some of the issues. 

Social media censorship and ethnic profiling in China are two classic cases where VPNs can be truly valuable. 

VPNs were developed to allow companies in different stations to connect their internal networks via encrypted channels through the internet. Users can also turn to VPNs to bypass government censorship to access restricted content. 

They work establishing an encrypted tunnel from the user’s computing device to a remote VPN server. The VPN server then connects to the main internet. In other words, the user connects to the main internet indirectly via a special VPN server. 

Thus, it’s extremely difficult for spying agencies to determine when you’re accessing the restricted online resource from a restricted location. Instead, the spying agency only sees the VPN server – they can’s see the individual (or individuals) behind the server.

The major trick is to use VPN servers located in favorable countries. For instance, if you’re located in China but accessing the web via a VPN server in Japan, it becomes impossible for the government to flag you and restrict your access. 

Can Countries Ban VPNs?

Yes, a few have tried. But, no, it’s near-impossible to effectively ban VPNs. Why? Because so many organizations rely on VPNs. Even popular browsers such as Firefox now have built-in VPNs. Thus, such regimes may have to ban the search engines entirely to effect the bans on VPNs – which is impossible.

Want to learn more about artificial intelligence, VPNs, and other emerging technologies that may impact your small business? Contact NIX Solutions.