What the advent of AI phones and computers means for our data.

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Apple, Microsoft and Google are ushering in a new era of what they describe as artificially intelligent smartphones and computers. They say these devices will automate tasks like editing photos and wishing a friend a happy birthday.

But to do this, these companies need something from you: more data.

In this new paradigm, your Windows computer will take a screenshot of everything you do every few seconds. An iPhone will collect information across the many apps you use. And an Android phone can listen to calls in real-time to alert you to scams.

Is this information you want to share?

This change has important implications for our privacy. To deliver new customized services, companies and their devices need more constant, intimate access to our data than ever before. In the past, the way we used apps and captured files and photos on phones and computers was relatively silent. Security experts say AI needs an overview to connect the dots between what we do in apps, websites and communications.

“Do I feel safe giving this information to this company?” Cliff Steinhauer, director of the National Cybersecurity Alliance, a nonprofit organization focused on cybersecurity, said of companies' AI strategies.

All this is happening because OpenAI's ChatGPT took the tech industry by storm almost two years ago. Apple, Google, Microsoft and others have since abandoned their product strategies, investing billions in new services under the umbrella term of AI, convinced of this new kind of computing interface. – which is constantly studying what you are doing to offer assistance – will become. Inevitable.

Experts say the biggest potential security risk with this change comes from a subtle change in the way our new devices work. Because AI can automate complex actions — like cleaning up unwanted objects from a photo — it sometimes requires more computational power than our phones can handle. This means that more and more of our personal data may have to leave our phones to deal elsewhere.

Information is being transferred to the so-called cloud, a network of servers that are processing requests. Once information reaches the cloud, it can be viewed by others, including company employees, bad actors, and government agencies. And while some of our data is always stored in the cloud, our most deeply personal, intimate data that was once there for our eyes only — photos, messages and emails — is now linked and analyzed by a company on its servers. can go.

Tech companies say they have gone to great lengths to secure people's data.

For now, it's important to understand what will happen to our data when we use AI tools, so I sought out more information from companies about their data practices and interviewed security experts. I plan to wait and see if these technologies work well enough before deciding whether it's worth sharing my data.

Here's what to know.

Apple recently announced Apple Intelligence, a suite of AI services and its first major entry into the AI ​​race.

The new AI services will be built into its fastest iPhones, iPads and Macs starting this fall. People will be able to use it to automatically remove unwanted objects from photos, create summaries of web articles, and write replies to text messages and emails. Apple is also improving its voice assistant, Siri, to allow it to do more conversations and access data in apps.

When he introduced Apple Intelligence at Apple's conference this month, Craig Federighi, the company's senior vice president of software engineering, explained how it might work: Mr. Federighi wrote in an email from a colleague. pulled in which asked him to push back the meeting, but he was. That night was to see a play in which his daughter played a role. His phone then pulled up his calendar, a document with details about the play, and a map app to predict if he'd be late to a play if he agreed to a meeting later.

Apple said it is looking to process most AI data directly on its phones and computers, which would prevent others, including Apple, from accessing the information. But for tasks that have to be pushed to servers, Apple said, it has developed security measures, including encircling the data with encryption and deleting it immediately.

Apple has also taken steps to prevent its employees from accessing the data, the company said. Apple also said it would allow security researchers to audit its technology to ensure it lives up to its promises.

But it's not clear to Apple what new requests could be sent to the company's servers, said Matthew Green, a security researcher and associate professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, whom Apple has described as its new technology. What was the brief about? Anything that leaves your device is inherently less secure, he said.

Microsoft is bringing AI to old-school laptops.

Last week, it began rolling out Windows computers called Copilot+ PCs, which start at $1,000. Computers contain a new type of chip and other gear that Microsoft says will keep your data private and secure. PCs can create images and rewrite documents, among other new AI-powered features.

The company also introduced Recall, a new system that helps users quickly find documents and files they've worked on, emails they've read or websites they've visited. What is browse? Microsoft compares Recall to having a photographic memory in your computer.

To use it, you can type casual phrases, such as “I'm thinking about a video call I had with Joe recently as he holds an 'I Love New York' coffee mug.” It happened.” The computer will then retrieve the video call recording containing these details.

To accomplish this, Recall takes screenshots every five seconds of what the user is doing on the machine and compiles those images into a searchable database. Snapshots are stored and analyzed directly on the PC, so the data is not reviewed by Microsoft or used to improve its AI, the company said.

Still, security researchers cautioned about the potential risks, pointing out that the data could easily expose everything you've ever typed or viewed if hacked. In response, Microsoft, which had planned to launch Recall last week, postponed its release indefinitely.

The PCs are equipped with Microsoft's new Windows 11 operating system. It has multiple layers of security, said David Weston, an executive at a security monitoring company.

Google also announced a suite of AI services last month.

One of its biggest revelations was a new AI-powered scam detector for phone calls. The tool listens to phone calls in real time, and if the caller looks like a potential scammer (for example, if the caller asks for a banking PIN), the company notifies you. Google said people will have to activate the scam detector, which runs entirely on the phone. This means that Google will not listen to the call.

Google announced another feature, Ask Photos, which requires sending information to the company's servers. Users can ask questions like “When did my daughter learn to swim?” to reveal their baby's first swimming photos.

Google said its employees may, in rare cases, review Ask Photos conversation and image data to prevent abuse or damage, and use the information to improve its Photos app. can go. To put it another way, your question and your child's swimming photo can be used to help other parents find swimming photos of their children.

Google said its cloud is locked down with security technologies such as encryption and protocols to limit employee access to data.

“Our approach to protecting privacy applies to our AI features, whether they're on-device or in the cloud,” Google executive Susan Frey, who oversees trust and privacy, said in a statement.

But Mr. Green, a security researcher, said Google's approach to AI privacy was relatively vague.

“I don't like the idea that my very personal photos and very personal searches are going to a cloud that's not under my control,” he said.

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