Privacy Protection Under the All-Seeing AI: Anything in a Gray Area Is At Risk

Posted By: Eric Ludwig
Date: October 5, 2023

The indomitable juggernaut of artificial intelligence (“AI”) continues to make a stir in matters of intellectual property and privacy. Of particular note is a recent announcement by Zoom that the company had changed its terms of service and would now be asking users to allow Zoom to access user data, face and facial movements, even private conversations, to train its AI models.

While Zoom has since clarified that it will not "use audio, video, or chat content for training (its AI models) without customer consent," questions still remain about how Zoom users could be impacted.

Though Zoom and other remote meeting platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, have been around for years, their popularity surged when the COVID pandemic forced numerous individuals and companies to conduct business remotely. Using Zoom or similar platforms is now an ingrained part of the work routine for many—which means saying “no” to Zoom (and others) might not be as easy to do as it first seems.

“Zoom can apparently use customer video calls and chat transcripts to train AI, so long as users consent,” explains Eric Ludwig, whose California-based law firm, Ludwig APC, focuses on intellectual property, data privacy, and business litigation around the globe. “While having the option to consent or not sounds reasonable to most, what happens when your meeting host agrees to share data with Zoom but you don’t want to? Any participants who don’t agree to share their data will need to drop off the call. How realistic is leaving the call for you if you’re required to attend the meeting to do your job? This could put people in a tough position. Many may have legitimate privacy concerns and reasons for not wanting to share their data. Some may just want to remain private for privacy’s sake. That’s still their right.”  

The Right to Privacy

A citizen’s “Right to Privacy” was officially recognized by the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut. In that case, citing the personal protections of the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 9th Amendments, the Supreme Court concluded that the U.S. Constitution created a “zone of privacy” inalienable to all citizens.

As a result, most U.S. citizens rightly assume a reasonable expectation of privacy as they go about their business. Those assumptions might be proven wrong, though, especially as technology advances and the use of artificial intelligence tools become more and more widespread.

Old System in A New Age

Some are expressing concern over eroding privacy and the potential for societal harm in the face of new technologies and AI. Recently, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman expressed concerns regarding AI and the possibility it could compromise elections, while several media organizations co-authored an open letter “calling for more transparency and copyright protection in AI.”

“These and similar calls-to-action are timely and important,” says Ludwig. “How legislators and courts respond in the coming months and years to keep up with new AI innovations and the causal business changes associated with them will be telling.” 

Read those Terms of Service

Many jokes have been made about reading user agreements and terms of service. What exactly are users agreeing to … and does it really matter? After all, if you don’t like a particular term in a user agreement, what can you reasonably do? Is declining "terms of service” realistic? Are you really going to forgo using Microsoft Office or Zoom if you don’t like something in the user agreement?

“To the extent privacy matters to individuals, reading those terms of service is important—especially any updates for services you already use,” says Ludwig. “There’s a good chance that many of the more recent updates pertain to AI, whether it’s something you use in your own business or whether it’s others wanting permission to use your data to train their AI models.”

Let’s Work Together: Global Experience, Personal Focus

If you have questions about how AI tools could affect your privacy, the services you use, the privacy of your employees, and potential risks to you and your business, give Ludwig APC a call. We are experts in privacy matters, IP, and business best practices.

Contact us today to arrange a free consultation at (619) 929-0873 or  [email protected].


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