The Daily Mail reported that home assistants could soon report their owners to the police for breaking the law based on a “Moral A.I.” system, if the ideas of academics in Europe are implemented.
The newspaper reported that academics at the University of Bergen in Norway discussed the idea of a “moral A.I.” for smart home assistants, like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod, during a conference.
Moral A.I. would reportedly make home assistants have to “decide whether to report their owners for breaking the law,” or whether to stay silent.
“This would let them to weigh-up whether to report illegal activity to the police, effectively putting millions of people under constant surveillance,” the Daily Mail explained, adding that Dr. Marija Slavkovik, who led the research, “suggested that digital assistants should possess an ethical awareness that simultaneously represents both the owner and the authorities — or, in the case of a minor, their parents.”
“Devices would then have an internal ‘discussion’ about suspect behaviour, weighing up conflicting demands between the law and personal freedoms, before arriving at the ‘best’ course of action,” the Mail noted.
In an interview with the Mail, Slavkovik declared, “There is [already] an ethical conflict between people in one family, let alone between people and manufacturer, or shareholders of the manufacturer and programmers… If we want to avoid Orwellian outcomes it’s important that all stakeholders are identified and have a say, including when machines shouldn’t be able to listen in. Right now only the manufacturer decides.”
Home assistants, most notably Google Home and Amazon Echo devices, have been at the center of privacy and security concerns since their release.
A report last year also indicated that Amazon Echo devices can be hijacked.
This month, it was revealed that Google failed to disclose a “secret” microphone on its home security product Nest Secure.
The company’s failure to disclose the microphone was only discovered after Google announced that users “would now be able to use Google Assistant” on the security devices.