How AI Protects Us Online
By Henry Silva, AI developer
The Internet has become such a big part of our lives that normally we don’t even think about what’s happening behind our phones and computers. We don’t consider how technology can help protect us as we shop, apply for loans, look for jobs, pay bills and more.
As beneficial as the online world has become for our society, it still has its drawbacks, especially when it comes to online safety and security for children and young people. It is estimated that nearly 94% of American children aged three to 18 have access to a computer at home; and as of 2020, more than 80% of Americans owned a smartphone, meaning that the vast majority of the American population have access to the Internet on a daily basis, a number that will only increase in the coming years. If you’re a parent, you are probably already worried about what kind of content your child is exposed to when using the Internet. And even though there are tools that regulate the content available for young people, it can be hard to actually validate the age of an anonymous online user, so for the most part these tools aren’t so effective at preventing your kids from watching inappropriate content and keeping them safe.
This is where AI comes into play. Many companies are already deploying AI tools to detect the age of a given user, and then proceeding to make their online environment safer. More specifically, social networks targeting young people are already using AI to do exactly that. By training machine learning models, they are making their apps safer for younger users.
And if this trend continues, we could see a major increase in the use of AI to make apps and websites safer for everyone. Companies like TikTok and Twitter already use sophisticated AI algorithms on their products, so it’s not a stretch to say that they might consider these new protective measures for their apps, especially as these become more popular among kids and teenagers — a demographic that already comprises roughly 25% of TikTok’s user base.
AI can benefit parents and adults too. It can be used to increase cybersecurity — the security of online environments — by preventing users from interacting with malicious websites and software. We’ve talked about how AI can protect us in online environments before, but this new possibility is incredibly useful for small business owners. Some companies are using AI to help detect online frauds and scams at an amazing pace. Their software can, for example, look for unauthorized use of your social security number on thousands of risky websites, as well as make sure no bank accounts are opened in your name without your consent. This is especially useful for newcomers to the Internet, since they often lack the experience needed to avoid these hostile online activities.
So the next time your children get online or you shop at your favorite online store, think about what’s behind the keyboard — consider how AI is helping us protect the online environment for everyone. The technology is still at its infancy and its improving quickly, so we should expect online protection to increase drastically over the next few years. This is good news.