Getting Wise To Artificial Intelligence And Consumer Rights.

Image: Brookings.edu. Atrificial intelligence is when computers perform tasks that used to be done by humans. This could include sending emails or writing letters.
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Get wise to artificial intelligence (AI)! That’s the message from Barbados’s Acting Public Counsel in the Office of Public Counsel, Douglas Frederick, to members of the public.

Mr. Frederick made the comments today during an outreach event to observe World Consumer Rights Day, under the theme Fair and Responsible AI For Consumers, in Shepherd’s Alley, Broad Street.

AI refers to the development of computer systems capable of performing tasks that would typically require human intelligence and decision-making.

Various techniques are used, including machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, and robotics.

It is said these systems are designed to analyse large amounts of data, recognise patterns, make decisions, and perform actions to achieve specific goals.

In an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service, the Acting Public Counsel said sometimes suppliers put consumers on an automated system where they are charged fees continuously, unless something is done to stop it.

“Sometimes, you are harassed by AI, [and] sometimes it can be advantageous too because it can help you to really benefit from information that you normally would not solicit. So, it educates you, but it can also disadvantage you….

“My message, therefore, is to be aware of AI. If you are not computer savvy, surround yourself with resourceful people who you can trust that will be able to guide you through the AI processes, especially with computerisation. And it is always best to get familiar with…some basic understanding of computerisation and the processes…before you engage in it.”

Mr. Frederick encouraged consumers to read any information received carefully. “Remember that you have the right to tell them to discard your information and not continuously charge you, or not to continuously keep your information or to share it with persons who are not authorised for it to be shared with,” he said.

Director of Consumer Protection at the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), Dava Leslie Ward, expressed the view that AI is beneficial and can improve efficiency. She noted that a lot of companies were now moving towards Chatbots, and this promotes efficiency.

Ms. Leslie Ward continued: “It is also very useful from the perspective of learning new information, …. So, it can be a very useful educational tool. But, you know, with all good things, there are some things that you have to watch out for.”

She explained that with AI, the algorithm could be set up to favour certain things, and then there could be a bias against certain persons.

“You want it to be done with transparency and fairness, giving every person a fair chance…. We can’t get away from AI, it’s going to be a part of our daily lives….  Instead of fighting against it, we need to argue to make sure that it is fair and balanced, and that is what the FTC’s role is here today.”

The barbados Director of Consumer Protection has encouraged members of the public to get comfortable with AI, and get used to it.

“But also be a voice and a champion for yourself; it is coming, and make sure that you always agitate on your own behalf and make sure that these issues are always pertinent and are on the consumer agendas of agencies,” she said.

Both Mr. Frederick and Ms. Leslie Ward said the outreach event went very well and they were able to sensitise the public about a number of things.

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