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AI abuses revealed, including in employment selection procedures

Written by: (Contributed) on 5 September 2022


Information about a large number start-up companies in Silicon Valley designing apps and other tools for the Australian business classes to use with employment selection procedures have sent alarm bells ringing; the federal government has already been urged to appoint a Commissioner to deal with the larger problem of dealing with cyber security and artificial intelligence and accountability.

There are at present few, if any, safeguards in place in Australia to protect citizens and residents from the uses and abuses of high-tech espionage, which they encounter in almost every part of their private and everyday lives, including their employment.

A study of the uses and abuses of cyber and artificial intelligence in contemporary Australia through the University of NSW and a government department have established over a hundred companies in Silicon Valley developing cyber / AI apps and tools for use with the screening of employment applicants in Australia. (1) The finding has come soon after widespread public disquiet being raised about retail outlets using facial recognition technology with customers, without their consent. (2) Further concern has also been raised about profiling techniques being used with intelligence-gathering from social media outlets, including TikTok. (3) Research conducted through the University of Melbourne has revealed TikTok 'captures the face-prints and voice-prints of its users … which are … comparable to finger-prints as they can help others identify, surveil and profile people of interest'. (4)

A major part of the problem is that many social media users access websites from mobile telephones, which are easily high-jacked and tracked, enabling those involved in intelligence-gathering to amass huge amounts of personal bio-data which can then be shared with third parties. While some of the security problems surrounding the matter have been tightened, many Australians run the daily risk of identity theft, or profiles of their behaviour being used without their consent or control. The recent legal verdict and $200,000 fine imposed on the Singapore-based Circles.Life telecommunications company for not conducting proper identity checks on users was, for example, only the tip of a very large iceberg. (5) While the company were found to have been responsible for transferring customers phone numbers from other telecommunications companies, their failure to use correct identity checks allowed 42 customers to become victims of fraud-related concerns, including at least seven who experienced financial losses. (6) No reference was provided in the legal documentation about personal information from 1,787 customers who transferred from other companies; Circles.Life, however, did note it used Optus networks and their own smartphone app without elaborating on the range and capacity of the latter.

Google, likewise, was recently fined $60 million in an Australian federal court for intelligence-gathering from customers Android phones, without the users consent. (7) Google was apparently collecting location data of an estimated 1.3 million Australians. The personal location data was regarded as 'sensitive and important to some consumers'; fears arose the data could be used for profiling and by third parties for ulterior motives. (8) It has become common practice with intelligence-gathering to identify post-codes and recurring patterns of personal behaviour, for example, for profiling purposes.

The fines already issued, however, amount to paltry sums of money for the corporate bodies concerned, which are also likely to be written off in annual audits by company accountants.

Many Australian employers, furthermore, already regard it as a totally acceptable business practice to access highly confidential information from the medical records of their workforces, by using non-standard methods of intelligence-gathering, which by-pass practitioners. A major successful campaign led by Australian trade-unions to encourage their members to 'opt out' of collective medical computer banks, making it very difficult for employers and others to access information, led to blanket silence and denial by the business classes.

These recent developments have been accompanied by a private legal challenge to Facebook in Australia whereby it has been alleged the social media giant has continually failed to take appropriate action over 'fake adds that lured unsuspecting people into scams', for personal information. (9) The forthcoming court-case, by the Australian judiciary, will take place at a future date. No doubt the corporate giant will use their lawyers to hide behind legal technicalities to avoid unfavourable publicity.

The fact ordinary Australians have no, or very limited protection, with on-line infringements of their privacy, however, is a matter which should be dealt with by the federal government in Canberra immediately. The fact the Australian business-classes appear to already be using computer programs for employment selection procedures, compiled from information gleaned by non-regulated intelligence-gathering techniques, is the hallmark of a very sinister side of industrial relations aimed at greater control of society at large.

Calls, therefore, for a federal government commissioner to investigate improper usage of artificial intelligence and on-line intelligence-gathering techniques, is an important and welcome development. (10) Hopefully the outcome will be easy to access and transparent; using CentreLink and Medicare as other government departments as a bench-mark, however, an official federal commission with powers to investigate improper usage of on-line internet intelligence-gathering for ordinary Australian people may prove to be as evasive as the dark side of the moon.  

The highway to hell would appear already well-paved with good intentions by the US-led military-industrial complex operating in collusion with the Australian business-classes. It is aimed at defending their interests, at all times.

1.     Commissioner 'could keep watch over AI', Australian, 25 August 2022.
2.     Kmart, Bunnings in privacy probe, Australian, 13 July 2022.
3.     It's time to stop TikTok harvesting our children's data, Australian, 12 August 2022.
4.     Ibid.
5.     Telco fined $200,000 over fraud exposure, Australian, 9 August 2022.
6.     Ibid.
7.     Google to pay $60m fine for secretly taking users' location data, The Weekend Australian, 13-14 August 2022.
8.     Ibid.
9.     Forrest fit to fight Facebook challenge, The Weekend Australian, 27-28 August 2022.
10.   Commissioner, op.cit., Australian, 25 August 2022.


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