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Ivana Bartoletti's take on AI Privacy and Ethics


Privacy and Ethics in AI must be faced more and more. They are not just hot topics. They represent how our society is going to develop new opportunities and new risks at the same time. Awareness is the key.


Privacy and Ethics in AI must be faced more and more. They are not just hot topics. They represent how our society is going to develop new opportunities and new risks at the same time.

In the words of our guest, Ivana Bertoletti, we can understand that awareness is the key.

Ivana Bartoletti is an established voice in the AI Ethics panorama. She is the Global Chief Privacy Officer at Wipro, Visiting Policy Fellow at the University of Oxford, and Founder of the Women Leading in AI Network.

Today, Ester Liquori, a digital entrepreneur in the AI field and volunteer for WAI Italy, interviewed Ivana.

Ester: Hi Ivana, thank you for joining us. We are so happy to have you sharing your thoughts about AI and Ethics. But first, tell us about your role.

Ivana: I wear multiple hats! As Global Chief Privacy Officer at Wipro, I lead the company's strategy and initiatives related to privacy and data protection. This of course means looking into all AI systems and counsel the teams on privacy, data security and ethics in (and by) design. I also like writing and I have published An Artificial Revolution: on Politics, Power and AI.

Ester: You live and work in the UK: is it an enabling environment for what you are doing, or would it be better elsewhere?

Ivana: I have lived in the UK for many years, and I now live in Frankfurt, Germany. The UK is a thriving environment for startups and London is doing all they can in the face of Brexit.

Germany is part of the EU, where so much is happening in the space of privacy and AI! For example, at the beginning of June, the EU approved EU lawmakers gave the thumbs up to landmark rules to rein in tech giants such as Alphabet unit Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft.

In addition, the Digital Services Act, which requires online platforms to do more to police the internet for illegal content was also approved.

The EU AI Act is also being discussed. I see privacy as a thread across all of these new areas, and one that will matter increasingly more.

Ester: What is the most significant change you observe in your field compared to when you entered the field early in your career?

Ivana: A lot of change. The most important one is that a lot of people now want to see innovation and privacy go hand in hand.

Awareness about the misuse of data - remember Cambridge Analytica? - is driving a desire for more control over what happens to our personal data.

Ester: How have you seen the role of women in AI evolve during your career, and what future do you see at the rate women pioneers are emerging in the AI/ML space?

Ivana: I see a lot more initiatives emerging to support more women in AI. I also see a lot of companies taking this seriously and running a lot of good projects. I would also add that AI is much more than technology, and it is important that we have women involved in determining AI policy and regulation too.

Ester: What do you think are the reasons why few women are interested in AI-related professions?

Ivana: There are many different reasons, but I believe that they are all cultural and historical. Look, in the early days, coding was considered a very female profession, perhaps as it was perhaps because it was viewed as similar to knitting!

However, once AI became more ´cool´, especially because of money and data, it became more male-dominated too. Surprise, surprise!

Also, there are the usual stereotypes and a culture, in the West, that still puts humanistic subjects versus scientific ones as there was such a distinction!

Ester: In what ways do you think technology has served women today?

Ivana: It depends. In my book, an Artificial Revolution, I start by saying that the more women speak up and smash the boundaries in work, the more they are told that they are replaceable, as AI is allegedly coming after their jobs. Smart home technology is further enslaving women, and the more the #MeToo movement exposes how women are harassed at every corner, the more the market is inundated with subservient and flirtatious female personal assistants, ready–programmed – to be shouted at. Technology will serve women only when women will start leading on its conception, development, policy, and oversight.

Ester: In what ways does it help women's empowerment?

Ivana: AI has tremendous potential for good - but it has potential for oppression, too. We have seen this in the way AI systems can replicate existing inequality through bias and discrimination.

So, if AI is both power and oppression, we should claim the first, and resist the second. Resisting the second means understanding, not overlooking, what AI can do now.

It means reclaiming our personal data, so we can stop the expropriation of our personal autonomy, choice, and freedom of thought. There has to be true representation at all levels.

Ester: Where, on the other hand, has the technology been fallacious to women?

Ivana: We are seeing some pretty bad stuff happening, including bias, discrimination, and the automation of existing inequalities with algorithms coding current discrimination into systems making decisions about what people read, if they receive a mortgage or a benefit.

But we are also seeing some really good stuff, especially in diagnostics and healthcare.

Este: What do you think are the elements that hold back women's positioning in this field?

Ivana: General stereotypes and the way that the industry often looks. Both need changing and both need positive action.

Ester: What advice would you like to give about the more ethical use of AI?

Ivana: To work across disciplines, with lawyers, engineers, computer scientists, and civic society. This is so important if we want to create AI that works for people, not against them.


Thank you to Ivana for her meaningful thoughts.

Do you want to contribute to building a better future for the AI and women's workspace?



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