UK citizen’s tweets analysed by Government-contracted AI firm

Privacy campaigners have expressed alarm after the government revealed it had hired an artificial intelligence firm to analyse UK citizens’  tweets as part of a coronavirus-related contract, according to the Guardian. Faculty, which was hired by Dominic Cummings to work for the Vote Leave campaign, was paid £400,000 by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for the work, according to a copy of the contract published online. In response to questions about the contract in the House of Lords, the government published an unredacted version of the contract, which describes the company’s work as “topic analysis of social media to understand public perception and emerging issues of concern to HMG arising from the Covid-19 crisis”. A further paragraph describes how machine learning will be applied to social media data.

Silkie Carlo, the director of the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, which discovered the updated contract, expressed alarm at the details. “This is effectively AI-powered mass political surveillance, and it’s been done in a very secretive way, apparently to inform policy,” she said.

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Jake Moore
Jake Moore , Cybersecurity Specialist
InfoSec Expert
August 12, 2020 12:09 pm

Machine learning requires a huge amount of data and Twitter is the perfect starting ground: not only to learn the public’s opinion but also to teach the algorithm behind it.

Users, however, must be aware that whenever they post on social media it is an open and public forum, and could, therefore, be used as part of mass data collection. Although not encouraged by the platforms themselves, there are ways to stay private on social media and it is always worth checking the privacy settings in each app.

Most social media users don’t think their posts will be viewed by anyone other than their followers. However, when data is placed together it can be used to target or even manipulate people – like we saw with the Cambridge Analytica fiasco.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jake Moore
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