Military-grade AI may now be used to spy on American civilians

The use of this technology is thus far unregulated.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Representational image of an advanced security system.jpg
Representational image of an advanced security system.


A new report by Wired is warning that military AI may be used to spy on regular civilians, that means me and you.

“It’s hard to imagine that you are the target of spycraft, but spying on employees is the next frontier of military AI. Surveillance techniques familiar to authoritarian dictatorships have now been repurposed to target American workers,” stated the article.

The report points to the emergence of a few dozen companies in the past couple of years that sell employers subscriptions for services like “open source intelligence,” “reputation management,” and “insider threat assessment.” What they don’t say is that these tools were often originally developed by defense contractors for intelligence uses. 

The systems use advanced data analytics to identify “labor organizing, internal leakers, and the company’s critics.”

This is a far stretch from the use of military-grade AI which was merely intended to target America’s national enemies. During its introduction the technology was supposed to be equipped with safeguards to prevent its use against citizens. 

“We should all be concerned by the idea that the same systems can now be widely deployable by anyone able to pay,” noted Wired.

Today, tools that were once developed solely to identify terrorist cells can be used to spot labor organizers so employers can illegally fire them before a union even has time to form. During recruitment, the tools may even encourage employers to avoid hiring such organizers in the first place. 

How effective these tools are is still to be determined. For example, emotion detection has thus far been proven to be biased and based on faulty assumptions. This means that people can even be singled out falsely.

However, in a context of obscurity and regulatory neglect, these companies are thriving regardless of whether their products are efficient or not. Worse of all, no one can be held accountable.

“Defenses of workplace surveillance are made of the thinnest tissue. Industry apologists proclaim that their software, sold to help employers “understand the labor union environment,” isn’t anti-union. Instead, they brand themselves as selling “corporate awareness monitoring” and prominently mention that “every American is protected by federal, state, and local laws to work in safe conditions.” It’s apparently not the manufacturer’s fault if a buyer uses this software to infringe on a legally protected right to organize or protest,” wrote Wired.

The outlet goes on to claim that companies involved in such surveillance should be forced to disclose this use publicly so that existing laws can be enforced. Meanwhile, new regulations safeguarding employees and civilians against such tools should be urgently put into place.