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Personal AI Privacy Watchdog Could Help You Regain Control of Your Data

Author: Mike Orcutt / Source: MIT Technology Review

If regulators aren’t going to help consumers make sense of what companies are doing with their data, maybe artificial intelligence can.

Keeping track of the personal data your mobile apps are collecting, using, and sharing requires making sense of long, ambiguous, and often confusing privacy policies and permission settings. Now there’s an app for that.

Privacy Assistant, a creation of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, uses machine learning to give users more control over the information that the apps on their Android phones collect. It combines a user’s answers to several questions (for example, “In general, do you feel comfortable with finance apps accessing your location?”) with information it gleans from analyzing the apps on the user’s phone to make specific recommendations about how that person should manage permissions.

The app is available only for rooted devices, meaning their operating systems have been unlocked to allow for unapproved apps. But Norman Sadeh, a computer science professor who leads CMU’s Personalized Privacy Assistant Project, hopes that a major tech company will eventually see the technology as a way to differentiate itself from its competitors, and pave the way for it to become a mainstream tool.

Collection and analysis of user data for targeted advertising is growing more prevalent and sophisticated, and for many consumers it may as well happen in a black box. Most people don’t read privacy policies or pay close…

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