Big News: Microsoft gets sued. European data privacy law will prohibit Machine Learning
Sometimes you just need some good news. Well, here you go… a few recent bits of sunshine for you.
First, Hot off the French presses.
France takes action against Microsoft and Windows 10 privacy
According to this evening’s article in The Guardian, Microsoft is being told to comply with French privacy law, stop collecting excessive user data, and stop tracking Windows 10 users without consent. France has given Microsoft three months to comply.
“A number of EU data protection authorities created a contact group to investigate Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system following its launch in July 2015, the French privacy watchdog said.
The action against Microsoft mirrors that taken by the CNIL against Facebook, which was ordered in February to stop collecting users’ information then used for advertising without their consent.
Microsoft processes information on all the apps downloaded and installed on Windows by a user and the time spent on each one to identify problems and improve its products. However the CNIL said it considered this to be excessive since the data “are not necessary for the operation of the service”.
The French watchdog also said that Microsoft puts advertising cookies on users’ terminals without properly informing them beforehand or giving them a chance to opt out.
“It has been decided to make the formal notice public due to, among other reasons, the seriousness of the breaches and the number of individuals concerned (more than 10 million Windows users on French territory),” the CNIL said in a statement.
If Microsoft continues to unlawfully mine user data in France, they will face potential lawsuits and fines; although the amount they could be fined under current law is relatively small fries. HOWEVER, Europe recently passed an absolutely stunning data privacy law, General Data Protection Rule, or GDPR, which goes into effect in 2 years. Once the GDPR is in effect, companies who violate the GDPR will have to pay fines of up to “4% of the company’s total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher.” This penalty could equal millions in fines for large companies like Microsoft or Facebook or Google. In 2 years when GDPR goes into effect, and companies have all altered their data collection habits, changed protocols and contracts to comply with Europe’s stiff privacy law, there is no reason why the rest of the world should not enjoy the same privacy and enforceable penalties.
Europe’s General Data Protection Rule (GDPR) prohibits machine learning, Artificial Intelligence AI
Read that headline again. Why is this important? You will remember we have written extensively about machine learning and the way computer programs are secretly analyzing user’s data, including students . In the education realm, online curriculum and assessments that use these “machine learning” data collecting algorithms are called adaptive learning or personalized learning. The algorithms can make predictions and profile people, everything from buying habits, behaviors, anxiety, mood, personality, risk assessments, etc.. There are currently no laws regulating how these algorithms are used, no laws making them transparent, even though privacy advocates and the FTC have called for algorithm transparency and regulation. GDPR will change that, at least for Europeans. As wired.com reports, Artificial Intelligence is setting up the internet for a huge clash with Europe.
“Neural networks are changing the Internet. Inspired by the networks of neurons inside the human brain, these deep mathematical models can learn discrete tasks by analyzing enormous amounts of data. They’ve learned to recognize faces in photos, identify spoken commands, and translate text from one language to another. And that’s just a start. They’re also moving into the heart of tech giants like Google and Facebook. They’re helping to choose what you see when you query the Google search engine or visit your Facebook News Feed.
With a few paragraphs buried in the measure’s reams of bureaucrat-speak, the GDPR also restricts what the EU calls “automated individual decision-making.” And for the world’s biggest tech companies, that’s a potential problem. “Automated individual decision-making” is what neural networks do. “They’re talking about machine learning,”
The regulations prohibit any automated decision that “significantly affects” EU citizens. This includes techniques that evaluate a person’s “performance at work, economic situation, health, personal preferences, interests, reliability, behavior, location, or movements.” At the same time, the legislation provides what Goodman calls a “right to explanation.” In other words, the rules give EU citizens the option of reviewing how a particular service made a particular algorithmic decision.”
How will edtech companies get around the European restrictions on profiling and machine learning? Adaptive and personalized learning is embedded in almost all online assessments, curricula, and is growing rapidly with the convergence and transformation of education data collecting reform promoted in ESSA’s testing plan: Competency Based Education. Use of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are predicted to sky rocket across the globe. Pokémon GO and its massive data collection issues is a harbinger of things to come. AI is already here and soon to enter classrooms. If online companies like Pearson, Google, AIR etc. won’t be able to use hidden online algorithms on European school children, without fully informed parental consent, don’t you think children in the US and other countries should be afforded the same human right to privacy that GDPR would offer? This is going to get very interesting.
And finally, if you are frustrated with deceptive tactics of Microsoft and Windows 10 seemingly installing itself on your computer, without your consent, take heart. You are not alone and you might take comfort in knowing someone in California has recently sued Microsoft for the unwanted Windows 10 download…and won $10,000. Take that Microsoft and we will be watching how you and other BigData gobbling giants handle Europe.