Why privacy-busting, law-breaking GCHQ’s pledges to protect the public using artificial intelligence should raise an eyebrow | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Why privacy-busting, law-breaking GCHQ’s pledges to protect the public using artificial intelligence should raise an eyebrow

The UK’s signals intelligence agency isn't known for its commitment to the rule of law, so claims its new Artificial Intelligence capabilities will be used to safeguard citizens, not spy on them, shouldn’t be taken at face value.
On February 24, GCHQ issued a report – Pioneering a New National Security – outlining how it intends to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to tackle child sex abuse, drugs, weapons and human trafficking, and online disinformation.

Mainstream media outlets widely reiterated the paper’s headline claims without criticism or balance. The BBC went so far as to suggest the release reflected GCHQ’s benevolent intentions and commitment to transparency.

News organizations particularly focused on the agency’s pledge to use AI to prevent online grooming, track potential predators, identify sources of child pornography, and help law enforcement identify and infiltrate pedophile rings. That no alarm was raised about this particular commitment is understandable - after all, apart from pedophiles themselves, who wouldn’t welcome child sex abuse being battled via every available means?

However, GCHQ’s history doesn’t make it an obvious candidate to lead child-protection efforts. For instance, in June 2020 journalist Matt Kennard exposed how the agency has gained illicit access to at least 22,000 primary and secondary school children in dozens of UK schools – some of them as young as four – via its CyberFirst program, often without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

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