Secretary Michael Chertoff on AI and Informational Warfare

Artificial intelligence (AI) will create tremendous value across the economy, but it’s not without significant risk, according to Secretary Michael Chertoff, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of the Chertoff Group. He recently shared his thoughts with Jake Schurmeier, Portfolio Manager, Harbor Capital.

AI intersects with the ongoing political divisions in current society. Therefore, it has the potential to exacerbate or improve the ongoing informational warfare.

Secretary Michael Chertoff said a top concern about AI is the weaponized use of personal data to influence political behavior. Secretary Chertoff served as the second secretary of homeland security for the U.S. under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009.

The weaponized use of personal data and AI has gone even further than Secretary Chertoff had imagined just a couple of years ago, he said during the recent Harbor Capital webinar. He feels the warning in his 2018 book “Exploding Data,” which focuses on cyber security, was not dire enough.

The Evolution of Data Harvesting and AI

AI started as a way of making money in the marketplace; companies could target consumers based on their shopping habits. Companies could use data collected through consumers’ online activities or purchases in grocery stores to identify which products to sell them.

The activities seemed relatively harmless until the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal in 2016. The scandal demonstrates the possible malicious use of AI and data harvesting, in this case, to influence politics. Tailored, targeted communications is one of the major tools currently in use to undermine democracy, according to Secretary Chertoff.

“If we can collect all the kinds of things you read, watch on television, where you work, how you drive, where you vacation. If we can feed that into artificial intelligence, we can start to send you specific messages online,” Secretary Chertoff said.

“[These messages] tailored to your interests and your particular desires are meant to engage your attention and suck you into supporting more and more extreme points of view,” he added.

Additionally, Chertoff notes how the targeted communications are not framed in a way that would apply to a large number of people. Rather, they are designed to scratch an itch that the producers understand because they have been living off your data.

Harbor is going to offer a replay of the webinar.  If you’re an Institutional Investor and are interested in the webinar replay, please email [email protected].

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Important Information

The views expressed herein may not be reflective of current opinions and are subject to change without prior notice.

This article was prepared as Harbor Funds paid sponsorship with VettaFI.

Harbor Capital Advisors and Chertoff Group are not affiliated.

Harbor Capital Advisors, Inc.