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Mozilla and Element AI want to build ‘data trusts’ in the artificial intelligence age

Mozilla, the nonprofit behind the free and open-source Firefox web browser, is partnering with Montreal-based artificial intelligence startup Element AI to push for ethical use of AI. To that effect, the two companies are exploring the idea of data trusts, a proposed data collection approach that aims to provide individuals with greater control over their personal information.The aim, the companies said, is to offer an alternative model to the current broken consent-based system of data collection such as the EU GDPR regulations. It’s easy to see why. As artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) continues to infiltrate different aspects of our day-to-day lives, the technology is now doing more than ever — for both good and bad. This necessitates an ethical use of such solutions to prevent misuse, and ensure there’re adequate controls over the massive amounts of data accessed by these algorithms. The data trust, therefore, acts as a “steward” that gets to approve and control the collection of, and manage access to, data with an eye on privacy while not sacrificing the benefits of AI and ML. In other words, a data trust — say, an independent watchdog agency — sets the terms of data collection, usage, and sharing, in addition to deciding who gets to access said information in a way that balances privacy and responsible use of technology.

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