New privacy research pegs AI as a rival threat to cybercrime

  • More than half of developers believe AI will almost equal Cybercrime in terms of risk to data privacy
  • Developers concerned about current regulatory frameworks, with 98% advocating for proactive measures to address future data privacy concerns

New research* released today reveals the extent of concern regarding the future threat posed by AI and Machine learning to our privacy.

Cybercrime is still seen as the main threat with 55%, but AI comes in close second at 53%.  Despite AI being a relatively new menace, the research shows that developers believe the technology is a threat that is rapidly catching up with cybercrime, as it becomes more mainstream. The cost of cybercrime is projected to reach $13.82 trillion by 2028: the reality is that with increasingly sophisticated AI potentially in the hands of a new generation of cybercriminals, this cost could grow exponentially.

The study, commissioned by Zama – a Paris-based deep tech cryptography firm specialising in the world of Fully Homomorphic Encryption (FHE)* – surveyed developers across both the UK and US.

During the research, more than 1000 UK and US Developers were asked their opinions on the subject of privacy, to uncover insight from the people that build privacy protection into everyday applications.  The research revealed developers’ own perceptions and relationship with privacy, delving into subjects such as , what privacy considerations should be at the centre of evolving innovation frameworks, who holds the ultimate ownership of privacy and what their opinion is on the approach to regulation.

In addition to the findings revealing significant concerns about AI’s threat, the research also reveals that 98% of developers believe that steps need to be taken now to address future privacy and regulation framework concerns.  72% also said that regulations made to protect privacy are not built for the future with 56% believing that dynamic regulatory structures – which are meant to be adaptable to tech advancements – could pose an actual threat.

“Despite cybercrime expected to surge in the next few years to the cost of trillions, 55% of developers we surveyed in our research stated that they feel cybercrime is only ‘marginally more of an issue’ than the threat to privacy that AI will pose. We have seen from our work that many developers are the real champions of privacy in organisations and the fact that they have some legitimate concerns about the privacy of our data, in relation to the surge in AI adoption, is a real worry,” says Pascal Palier, CTO and Co-founder of of Zama.

“Zama shares the concerns expressed by developers about the privacy risks posed by AI and its potential irresponsible use. Regulators and policymakers should take this insight into consideration as they try to navigate this new world. It’s important not to underestimate the very real threat highlighted by the experts who are thinking about protecting privacy every day, and make sure upcoming regulations address the increased risks to users’ privacy,” he added.

The survey went on to reveal that 30% of developers believe that those behind making the regulations are not as knowledgeable as they could be about all the technologies that should be taken into consideration, also presents a real danger, while 17% believe this would pose a possible threat to future tech advancements.

“It’s undoubtedly an exciting time for innovation, especially with AI advancements developing as fast as they have. But with every new development, privacy must be at the centre; it’s the only way to ensure the data that powers new innovative use cases is protected. Developers know this,  embracing the vision championed by Zama in which they have the ability and responsibility of safeguarding the privacy of their users. It’s clear, in analysing their insights, that they would like to see regulators taking more responsibility for understanding how Privacy Enhancing Technologies can be used to ensure privacy of use for even the newest of innovations, including Gen AI. Advanced encryption technology such as FHE can play a positive role in ensuring innovation can still flourish, while protecting privacy at the same time,” he adds.

*FHE, Fully Homomorphic Encryption

FHE is an encryption technique that enables processing data without decrypting it. With data encrypted both in transit and during processing, everything you do online could be encrypted end-to-end, allowing companies and organisations to offer their services without ever seeing their users’ data — and users will never notice a difference in functionality.

The research was carried out by Research Without Barriers (RWB) between 9th January 2024 and 8th February 2024 with a sample comprising 1,098 Developers from the UK (571) & USA (527).

About Zama

Zama is a cryptography company building open-source homomorphic encryption solutions for blockchain and AI. Their technology enables a broad range of privacy-preserving use cases, from confidential smart contracts to encrypted machine learning and privacy-preserving cloud applications. Zama was founded by Pascal Paillier and Rand Hindi, and currently has the largest research team in homomorphic encryption.

Since it was founded in 2020, Zama has established itself as the main actor shaping the FHE market, having already made significant contributions to the field of data privacy and encryption, including 17+ filed patent families, $100 million in secured deals and the successful delivery of four innovative products/solutions to the market.

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