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How Consumers Can Protect Their Privacy As Advanced Artificial Intelligence Becomes Commonplace

(March 25, 2019) (L-R) Catina O'Leary, Dave Costenaro and Alexander Mueller discussed the nuances of artificial intelligence on Monday's "St. Louis on the Air."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Artificial intelligence is among the most transformative technologies humans possess today. But there are many concerns that while artificial intelligence is great in many respects, it's also costing consumers their privacy.

A common scenario that worries individuals is when ads coming across social media feeds feel a little too specific, leading some to believe that devices are “spying” on consumers without their consent.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about artificial intelligence and big data tracking in light of growing privacy concerns, as well as the role of AI in the health-care industry. Joining him for the discussion were Dave Costenaro, executive director of Prepare.ai; Catina O'Leary, president and CEO of Health Literacy Media; and Alexander Mueller, founder and CEO of Capnion. 

What is AI?

Artificial intelligence brings to mind robots, self-driving cars and virtual assistants like Alexa or Siri. But AI has been commonplace for a long while – think calculators, printers and even Google Translate. 

“I like to simplify [AI] and think of it as something that a machine can do, that formerly was reserved only for humans,” Costenaro said. But would AI ever have the potential of taking over? Costenaro said he doesn’t think so.

“You program something, you design a system to do a specific task, and it will just do amazing at that task, but it can't necessarily cross over into other things. So I don't think we're going to have terminators walking the street anytime soon,” he added.

Companies like Facebook and Google use AI to collect information that will lead to more targeted advertisements. That practice of data collection has also bled into other industries, such as health care.

“[AI collects] massive amounts of data, and they use computers to look across reports to make decisions about diagnosis that are probably really functional. The machines see many more rare diseases, they're able to look at pathology reports much quicker than one doctor could, they probably get a better diagnosis quicker than an individual doctor, second opinions, all kinds of those things are really functional,” O’Leary said.

As a cybersecurity expert, Mueller works on figuring out how to encrypt all that data.

“One danger that's attached to all this AI and just the [overall use of] algorithms to work with data, you have to decrypt the data to draw these deductions that help patients. What we're doing is all about how can you make those deductions and keep data encrypted all the time,” he said.

Listen to the full discussion:

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex HeuerEvie HemphillLara Hamdan and Jon Lewis give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.

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