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  • Writer's pictureShannen Dorothee Tioniwar

Introduction to the project

From the creation of the steam engine (1698) to data-operated Artificial Intelligence (AI) devices such as the Amazon Echo (2016), technology progresses at exponential rates (Gates and Ma, 2018, 3). Today, the application of AI devices helps us in our decision making process and prediction through analysing the data collected from our actions and activities (Agrawal, 2018; Dunne 1990), which in turn costs us our privacy.

Recognising the necessity of AI development, which consequently influences both our social and digital interaction, implies “the importance of our present actions to determine future paths (Carr, 2015, 231).” This was when I sparked my interest to explore the topic of data privacy.

Are we becoming too reliant on our automated services?

Experts claim that “humans have little to no privacy left due to these data collection practices (Forbes, 2019; Deane, 2018).” From children’s toys to smartphones, they are undoubtedly data collection portals. Unknowingly, blackboxed packages in voice assistants pose a risk by luring us to hand over our personal experiences in the form of behavioral data in return for a “conversationally capable, emotionally perceptive, and personalized product (Vlahos, 2019, xii).” Along with the advanced data collecting technique AI has to offer, privacy has become a persistent issue. This could be reflected through the infamous “Facebook - Cambridge Analytica” scandal (Wong, 2019), where “personal data of millions of people’s Facebook profiles was extracted without their consent and used for political advertising (Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal, 2018),” causing a privacy breach for many. This scandal not only opened many speculations regarding data-misuse, but also questions the importance of Privacy to users of online-based products which collect their personal information.

Along with the advanced data collecting technique AI has to offer, privacy has become a constant and to a certain extent complex issue.  

What is privacy?

Privacy has been traditionally recognised as a prerequisite for the exercise of human rights such as the freedom of expressions, association, and choice (Deane, 2018). Now, in the information age, privacy is a topic which frictions our ability to take control of our data flow and how it is being stored between the 2 parties, human, machine. Along with the advanced data mining technique AI has to offer, privacy has become a persistent issue. Social actors that regularly utilize these techniques, such as government agencies and corporations, are now in the position to identify, profile, and directly affect the lives of people without their consent (Deane, 2018). As Grace Hopper(a computer programmer) once said: “its easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission (Murphy, 2017).” A strategy also heavily implemented by Google (, 2019).

Nevertheless, as the scope of automation expands, rather than halting or discarding its route, we could speculate instead and reevaluate AI technology’s role in our lives, and accomplishing boundaries to re-define human-machine interaction. These instances inspired me to gather first-hand information regarding how people would react to the loss of their privacy. Please seen next blog post for this design experiment.

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