In order to alert the general public of the problem of digital privacy, UNESCO is launching The Cookie Factory. This extension allows you to assume a new identity as you browse the internet, using fake cookies, and shows you exactly how your data is harvested in real time. From the Japanese Hacker to the Survivalist and the Conspiracy Theorist, The Cookie Factory allows you to choose from some 40 fictitious profiles. The extension replaces temporally your own cookies on all the websites you visit including YouTube and Amazon, with your chosen avatar’s cookies. This experience is enabled by AI: you will be able to watch, as the AI navigates more than a hundred pages by clicking on keywords corresponding to the avatar’s profile. These pages, tracked exactly as they are in a normal browsing session, will fill your browser with your avatar’s cookies. At the same time, they will tell the story of the avatar through a visual and audio narrative, exploiting the goldmine of content available on the internet. From recommendations on YouTube and Amazon to your history, favourites and targeted advertisements, once these new cookies have been generated, your browser believes that you have indeed become someone else.
AI permeates our daily life, from recommendation algorithms to medical care and education. It has the potential to be highly beneficial and help us solve some of the most pressing issues of the century. But it also carries serious risks and could compromise our human rights. For example, the mediation of online information by algorithms and AI challenges many of the founding principles of democracy such as freedom of expression, and can cause disinformation. This can lead to the emergence of stereotypical biases, such as an online search for “great historical figures” retrieving only white males. Facial recognition raises the same kind of issues when this tool used by governments and police forces is still unable to recognize women or black people. In order to ensure that Artificial Intelligence works in favor of humanity, UNESCO has launched an unprecedent international negotiation which will very soon lead to the adoption by its 193 Member States of a Recommendation on the Ethics of AI. For the first time it will provide a global normative framework on the ethics of artificial intelligence, combining concrete actions and universal principles. Among them is arguably one of the most pressing issues: respect for privacy.