New privacy research pegs AI as a rival threat to cybercrime

More than half of developers believe AI will almost equal Cybercrime in terms of risk to data privacy.

  • Tuesday, 21st May 2024 Posted 3 weeks ago in by Phil Alsop

New research released today reveals the extent of concern regarding the future threat posed by AI and Machine learning to our privacy.

Cybercrime is still seen as the main threat with 55%, but AI comes in close second at 53%. Despite AI being a relatively new menace, the research shows that developers believe the technology is a threat that is rapidly catching up with cybercrime, as it becomes more mainstream. The cost of cybercrime is projected to reach $13.82 trillion by 2028: the reality is that with increasingly sophisticated AI potentially in the hands of a new generation of cybercriminals, this cost could grow exponentially.

The study, commissioned by Zama - a Paris-based deep tech cryptography firm specialising in the world of Fully Homomorphic Encryption (FHE)* - surveyed developers across both the UK and US.

During the research, more than 1000 UK and US Developers were asked their opinions on the subject of privacy, to uncover insight from the people that build privacy protection into everyday applications. The research revealed developers’ own perceptions and relationship with privacy, delving into subjects such as , what privacy considerations should be at the centre of evolving innovation frameworks, who holds the ultimate ownership of privacy and what their opinion is on the approach to regulation.

In addition to the findings revealing significant concerns about AI’s threat, the research also reveals that 98% of developers believe that steps need to be taken now to address future privacy and regulation framework concerns. 72% also said that regulations made to protect privacy are not built for the future with 56% believing that dynamic regulatory structures - which are meant to be adaptable to tech advancements - could pose an actual threat.

“Despite cybercrime expected to surge in the next few years to the cost of trillions, 55% of developers we surveyed in our research stated that they feel cybercrime is only ‘marginally more of an issue’ than the threat to privacy that AI will pose. We have seen from our work that many developers are the real champions of privacy in organisations and the fact that they have some legitimate concerns about the privacy of our data, in relation to the surge in AI adoption, is a real worry,” says Pascal Palier, CTO and Co-founder of of Zama.

“Zama shares the concerns expressed by developers about the privacy risks posed by AI and its potential irresponsible use. Regulators and policymakers should take this insight into consideration as they try to navigate this new world. It’s important not to underestimate the very real threat highlighted by the experts who are thinking about protecting privacy every day, and make sure upcoming regulations address the increased risks to users’ privacy,” he added.

The survey went on to reveal that 30% of developers believe that those behind making the regulations are not as knowledgeable as they could be about all the technologies that should be taken into consideration, also presents a real danger, while 17% believe this would pose a possible threat to future tech advancements.

“It’s undoubtedly an exciting time for innovation, especially with AI advancements developing as fast as they have. But with every new development, privacy must be at the centre; it’s the only way to ensure the data that powers new innovative use cases is protected. Developers know this, embracing the vision championed by Zama in which they have the ability and responsibility of safeguarding the privacy of their users. It’s clear, in analysing their insights, that they would like to see regulators taking more responsibility for understanding how Privacy Enhancing Technologies can be used to ensure privacy of use for even the newest of innovations, including Gen AI. Advanced encryption technology such as FHE can play a positive role in ensuring innovation can still flourish, while protecting privacy at the same time,” he adds.

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