Today's trends for tomorrow's business
June 5, 2018
As a small or midsized business, you may be considering the benefits of business automation technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), for improving operational efficiency and customer experiences.
But are you also considering the privacy implications involved with such innovation? You should be.
Admittedly, you don’t have to do anything about it this week. After all, this is bleeding-edge technology. Most SMBs are just learning what’s available to them and how to implement it. And nobody’s breathing down your neck to have the safest systems in place for protecting private information today.
The tide is turning
Yet, it’s important to recognize that the tide is turning in that direction because of a series of recent high-profile events involving major companies and government agencies. Most notably, Facebook came under fire after it became known that Cambridge Analytica allegedly misused the private records of its subscribers to influence elections in the United States and elsewhere.
At the same time, the European Union finally implemented its long-awaited General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), arguably the largest privacy legislation in history. And of course, existing industry specific regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), continue to be a force to reckon with for businesses.
Given this increasing focus on protecting consumers’ personal information, you shouldn’t delay implementing privacy policies and procedures much longer. A recent Intuit survey finds 66 percent of SMBs are already using automation technologies, and IDC predicts more than 20 percent of SMBs in developed countries will be using AI-like technologies by 2020. So, chances are, if you’re not already, you’ll soon will be.
This means you’ll want to be able to tell the 70 percent of consumers who are increasingly concerned about privacy, what you’re doing about it. More specifically, you’ll need to be ready to allay any concerns about your AI systems being a little creepy with assurances to the contrary.
Of course, any SMB doing business in Europe will need to be able to identify and take precautions to protect personally identifiable information (PII). They’ll need to gain the explicit consent of consumers to collect and use their personal information, such as names, home addresses, email addresses and computer IP addresses.
Similarly, companies must anonymize collected data to protect privacy and notify individuals if their data has been compromised. And they’ll need to be able to prove they’re doing all of this at any moment. If they can’t, the potential penalties are huge; maximum fines are 4 percent of annual global revenues, or £20 million, whichever is more. In fact, Facebook and Google already face lawsuits over alleged GDPR violations.
All of this said, not everything about artificial intelligence and privacy regulations needs to be frightening. For example, privacy doesn’t even come into play if your business is only using automated systems to collect and process internal information, for instance about the efficiency of a printer fleet.
Finding the opportunities
The push to ensure privacy even presents an opportunity for some inventive AI startups and IT pros. How so? Well, remember what artificial intelligence is about: the science of training systems to emulate human tasks through learning and automation. That means it’s theoretically possible to program AI systems to prompt, tag and associate consent actions as part of a data management framework, thus automating potentially tedious regulatory compliance functions.
Industry experts note it’s also possible to automate the logging and presentation of details for regulatory compliance auditors through AI.
Today, it’s clear more SMBs are considering the benefits of automated systems to improve their businesses, which means they must eventually consider privacy concerns. While not something that needs to be addressed immediately, beginning the process of implementing privacy policies and procedures sooner than later can help allay any future public relations, regulatory and lawsuit nightmares.
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