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The ethical implications of AI-based mass surveillance tools

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most auspicious yet controversial technologies with virtually unlimited potential to solve almost all of the existential problems humanity is facing today.1 Huge resources are poured into the development, testing and application of AI that is supposed to be utilized in almost all areas of everyday life.2 It may be used to combat genetically inherited diseases, to revolutionize the economy, to bring prosperity and equality to everyone and to counter the effects of climate change.3 With AI as the enabling technology humanity may experience a better future. Today, AI capabilities can already drastically improve analytic processing tasks and algorithmic systems and have beaten humans in games such as chess.4 Yet, AI and all of its applications bring about a myriad of ethical challenges. Revolutionary weapon systems that achieve autonomy via AI and genome-editing powered by AI are just some specific examples.5 An omnipotent AI will be either the greatest or the vilest thing that has happened to humanity in its brief existence.6 However, even today more and more computational devices are connected to each other, spurring a huge increase in global data streams that can be used to further train and enhance AI systems. The prowess of AI for executing analytic tasks paves the way for the use of AI in more and more applications. One of these applications, that shows great promise, is the use of AI in surveillance applications.7 AI surveillance applications are proliferating at a fast rate, with a number of appli-cations already being in use today.8 These applications are aimed at accomplishing a number of policy objectives, some are in accordance with basic human laws, some are definitely not and some 1 Cf. Hawking (2018). P. 183ff 2 Cf. Hawking (2018). P. 183ff. 3 Cf. Hawking (2018). P. 183ff. 4 Cf. Burton (2015). P. 1ff. 5 Cf. Hawking (2018). P. 183ff. 6 Cf. Hawking (2018). P. 183ff. 7 Cf. Feldstein (2019). P. 1. 8 Cf. Feldstein (2019). P. 1. 2 belong in the nebulous area in between lawful and unlawful.9 But what are lawful and unlawful uses of AI surveillance systems and what are their ethical implications? This thesis will examine the ethical implications of AI based mass surveillance systems and try to answer the first central question, if it is possible to use AI based mass surveillance applica-tions in an ethical way. Furthermore, the thesis will attempt to answer the second central ques-tion and find out how the ethical use of AI based mass surveillance systems, if this ethical use is possible, materialize. Governmental agencies will be in the focus of this discussion, as their use of the technology may have bigger ethical challenges. Yet private companies will play a part as well. In an attempt to accomplish these two aims, the thesis will inspect the basics of ethics and possible ethical theories that can be utilized to answer the questions. Normative ethics will be stud-ied first with a focus on consequentialism and utilitarianism. To gain a deeper understanding of utilitarianism, act and rule utilitarianism will be compared. Afterwards, deontological theories will be the focus of the discussion with a concentration on deontological pluralism. Next, the mentioned theories will be evaluated, discussing advantages and weak spots of the theories, to assess which theory may serve as the ethical framework of this thesis and the subsequent answer to the two main questions. The next step will be the establishment of the AI framework. This contains the definition of AI and a distinction of terms that are commonly used in the its environment such as automation and au-tonomy. The importance of data for AI will be discussed. Afterwards, the technological basis of AI will be outlined, discussing key concepts such as machine learning and deep learning. Addi-tionally, it will be examined how an AI learns. The possible uses of AI in general will be outlined in a brief fashion, blazing the trail to discussing the moral challenges of AI. Afterwards, the current pace of AI development will be studied. In the chapter that follows, the use of AI in surveillance technology is going to be highlighted. The possible ways of how AI can be used for surveillance purposes are reviewed here, discussing facial 9 Cf. Feldstein (2019). P. 1. 3 and behavioral recognition systems, smart cities, smart policing, communications/data driven sur-veillance and their enabling technologies. Then, the global proliferation of AI surveillance systems is going to be outlined. Subsequently, the accordance of AI surveillance with basic human laws and rights, such as the right to privacy, will be checked to find out if the law and the international framework of human rights allow for AI surveillance or at least have restrictions that would greenlight the use of AI surveillance technology. All the aspects of the thesis, especially including the selected ethical framework, will be combined in this last section in order to enable the adaptation of a framework that allows to find out, if AI surveillance systems can be ethically permissible while also creating insights how this ethical AI surveillance system must be engineered. To finish, the thesis will end with a conclusion.

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Author:Marvin Wiesenthal
Document Type:Master's Thesis
Year of Completion:2022
Date of final exam:2022/06/27
Release Date:2022/07/29
Institutes:Fachbereich 2 - Wirtschaftsinstitut
DDC class:300 Sozialwissenschaften / 330 Wirtschaft
Licence (German):License LogoNo Creative Commons