Robot, Mans Best Friend

After years of data privacy battles in the legal world, I recently embarked on a “career upgrade” to the role of General Counsel for a startup company that implements digital robots.  At first, I was not convinced. The business of digital robots is not remarkably litigious, but I came from a world where most data breaches and legal issues are highly regulated and scrutinized down to the very letter of the law.  Now, I operate in an unregulated world where both “people problems” and “robot problems” can often transpire into legal problems. Thus, I spend most of the day as wearer of multiple hats (along with Jack, who boasts many traits as well).  Anything is fair game as lead counsel.  Gone are the days when I could simply escalate to someone above my pay grade (the buck always stops here). But these are the woes of any General Counsel, which is not the purpose of this article. The purpose of this article is the one point that has become clear in my new role: the data privacy battle is much easier to fight with digital robots in your corner.


This became especially apparent to me in the wake of the recent Facebook/Cambridge Analytica news. The big scandal and all the frenzy — it all came down to one person:  Aleksandr Kogan, University of Cambridge researcher who created the personality quiz app called thisisyourdigitallife.  In a world where some of us need an app to tell us our personality types, we absolutely must have someone to tell us the data we provide is safe.  And that’s exactly what Facebook did in its 8 page microscopically-lettered privacy policy and terms of service which no one cared to read.  The data that was breached was not obtained against Facebook’s terms of service and there is no argument that the data was obtained illegally.  But it was against Facebook’s terms for Kogan to hand that data to another firm.  Initially, when news of the breach broke out, both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica seized the opportunity to point fingers at Kogan.  He was a bad actor, a criminal. And the rest of the system remains unflawed but for the acts of this one individual. It’s a stretch, but this was the position.  But shouldn’t our system account for the acts of individuals such as Kogan?  Shouldn’t we assume that there will be such bad actors?  Although Facebook quickly changed its tune to take blame for the incident, with Zuckerberg apologizing to the public for about the 87th time, it is undeniable that these types of leaks or breaches happen at the hands (literally) of those in the tranches with access to way too much information.


It’s not just Kogan, it could be me or you or anyone else with solid education who just woke up one day making an extremely bad judgment call. But digital robots, on the other hand, don’t wake up having bad days. They’re not financially motivated and don’t make decisions based on self-implication. They follow rules and you can trust they will not engage in the typical office banter of whether we should make America great again. Extremely accurate with undeniable loyalty, they will never talk back. If you think about it, these are the qualities we should be looking for in today’s workforce. Instead of pointing fingers at bad actors such as Kogan, we should minimize the need to rely on people for certain tasks (since people undeniably include bad actors). Of course, digital robots have their limitations in that they operate in a rules-based manner, being extremely black and white. But with machine learning capabilities nowadays, we are able to train digital robots to execute and process tasks similar to how a human would. The real fear is one you’ve probably heard many times, the age-old debate about robots replacing humans, which is addressed head-on by our CEO, Gokul Solai, here. The other, less realistic fear, is robots taking on an Artificial Intelligence evolution that ends much like the movie, The Terminator. The day that happens, it looks like we will all be ready for another “career upgrade”.


Interested in finding out more about digital robots? Explore Novatio Solutions


Written by: Sumitha Pitroda,Vice President and General Counsel at Novatio Solutions

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