Why is it that so many companies that rely on monetizing the data of their users seem to be extremely hot on AI? If you ask Signal president Meredith Whittaker (and I did), she’ll tell you it’s simply because “AI is a surveillance technology.”

  • AutoTL;DRB
    39 months ago

    This is the best summary I could come up with:

    If you ask Signal president Meredith Whittaker (and I did), she’ll tell you it’s simply because “AI is a surveillance technology.”

    Onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, Whittaker explained her perspective that AI is largely inseparable from the big data and targeting industry perpetuated by the likes of Google and Meta, as well as less consumer-focused but equally prominent enterprise and defense companies.

    “You know, you walk past a facial recognition camera that’s instrumented with pseudo-scientific emotion recognition, and it produces data about you, right or wrong, that says ‘you are happy, you are sad, you have a bad character, you’re a liar, whatever.’ These are ultimately surveillance systems that are being marketed to those who have power over us generally: our employers, governments, border control, etc., to make determinations and predictions that will shape our access to resources and opportunities.”

    Ironically, she pointed out, the data that underlies these systems is frequently organized and annotated (a necessary step in the AI dataset assembly process) by the very workers at whom it can be aimed.

    It’s not actually that good… but it helps detect faces in crowd photos and blur them, so that when you share them on social media you’re not revealing people’s intimate biometric data to, say, Clearview.”

    Like… yeah, that’s a great use of AI, and doesn’t that just disabuse us of all this negativity I’ve been throwing out onstage,” she added.

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  • Maoo [none/use name]
    -29 months ago


    Modern AI is nothing more than models that can be trained (have parameters set) by massive amounts of data to carry out certain pattern recognition / regurgitation tasks (with socially constructed bias of course).

    Where are there pattern recognition problems to solve and massive data? Mostly text, images, location data, audio recordings, and (e-)commerce. The sources of these are nearly all a form of surveillance, and as a result, the models are also well-suites for it. The other side drives it: the government wants to surveil (cops, basically) and private corps want to create and dominate markets from nothing (and get government contracts).


    • Worldwide high-res satellite imagery.
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Reddit
    • Voice calls
    • Video calls
    • Translation engines
    • Your emails
    • Your personal location history
    • Your purchase history
    • Your web browsing habits
    • Street-level imagery
    • Your genome
    • How you play video games
    • What entertainment you watch.