IGF 2018 WS #430 Always-on and listening: How safe are digital assistants?

Subtheme(s): 

Organizer 1: Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Organizer 2: Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Organizer 3: Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

The arrival of the Internet of Things or Internet of Things (IoT) is considered one of the most significant technological changes of the present times, and promises to impact our lives in several ways. At the same time, this interactivity and interconnectivity presents considerable opportunities for technological development and significant challenges to privacy and the protection of personal data.

The products that today are integrated with the IoT technologies are of various types and have different functions, but a specific device draws attention in the international market and began to emerge on the shelves: speakers that have built-in personal assistant voice software.

These virtual assistants use artificial intelligence techniques to analyze user requests and return information - supposedly - useful. They seek to become so natural that we will hardly realize that they are listening to us all the time. Every time an assistant records our voices, the sound files are sent and stored on company servers. Through the collection and analysis of big data, such assistants will process an immense amount of information about us.

In addition to the privacy-related issues brought up by these devices, it is possible to note that most of them speak in soft tones and with women's voice, which makes us wonder: Why do almost all digital assistants are "female" in the standard version? That is why we also want to shed light on the sexism involved in device development.

Format: 

Flash Session - 30 Min

Interventions: 

The first stage of the activity consists of a brief expository introduction of each facilitator, with the aim of exposing a specific topic, in about 5 minutes, in order to give the kick-off for the discussions that will be further take place.

Diversity: 

The organizing team has both men and women (2 man and 1 woman), all organizers are under 30, and includes participants from the Latin America and Caribbean Region. Speakers and organizing team present a good level of engagement with the proposed subject, being all members of renowned educational institutions.

This activity aims to be a space where participants feel free to raise concerns and insights that can foster solutions, approaches and propositions that focus on the discussion of voice-controlled devices.

Contents to Discuss:

1.Retrieval and browsing of spoken content

• Conception and Fundamentals

2. Data Protection Challenges

• Vigilant devices and Right to privacy

3. Gender and tech: sexism by design and the reinforcement of stereotypes

• "Female" digital assistants

Discussion Facilitation: 

We expecte to promote a critical, propositional and evidence-based debate. For that, the speakers will propose questions to guide the discussion. The objective of this part is to enable the speakers to stimulate the debate on technical, privacy and gender issues. They will point out the main topics of the discussion, and with this brief introduction the activity will become an open discussion with the public in order to collect strategies, suggestions and proposals.

Online Participation: 

The opportunity for Q&A will also extend to remote participants, who will be given the opportunity to ask questions through the dedicated online forum, such as WebEx or AdobeConnect. Some of the session organizers already have abundant experience managing remote participation at the IGF and we will have no trouble facilitating remote participation.

Due to the short session time, prior to the workshop, we also will publish a list of reading materials about the theme.

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678