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Criminals and Crimefighters Test the Legal Boundaries of AI Use

3d rendering humanoid robot working with headset and notebook
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 09, 2019

The term "artificial intelligence" covers a wide range of software or computers mimicking human cognition. But as the limits of AI get pushed, it seems like machines are doing some things that human could never do. And, because both criminals and cops are the ones testing the boundaries of AI, the legal limits of its use will become a hot topic.

Here's a look at two recent cases in both crime and crimefighting where AI and similar technology could play a crucial role.

Can You Hear Me Now?

You may have heard about photoshopping one person's head on another body. You may have even seen deepfakes, convincing faceswaps that use machine learning to create everything from fake celebrity pornography to viral videos mocking politicians. Now, criminals are using the same tech to mimic voices to rip off hundreds of thousands of dollars.

An unnamed company was tricked into transferring $243,000 into a secret account based on synthetic audio of the CEO's voice. As Vice reported:

The company's managing director was called late one afternoon and his superior's voice demanded the subordinate wire money to a Hungarian account to save on "late-payment fines", sending the financial details over email while on the phone. A spokeswoman from [company insurer] Euler Hermes said, "The software was able to imitate the voice, and not only the voice: the tonality, the punctuation, the German accent."

The thieves tried again, but the subordinate was suspicious this time, calling his boss. But the successful theft, along with earlier deepfake incidents, have individuals, businesses, and law enforcement wondering what's next.

Can You See Me?

So, if the criminals are using facial technology, can the cops use it as well? Courts and communities are still trying to figure that out. While some cities, like San Francisco, have banned facial recognition technology, others, like Huntington Park just a few hours' drive south, have "autonomous data machines" roaming the streets, collecting data on people, cars, and cellphones.

Courts have ruled that while law enforcement officers can follow you, they can't put a GPS tracker on your car. And while courts have yet to address robotic collection of nearby cellphone data, the Supreme Court recently ruled that police need a warrant to access your phone's location data from cell towers. So, the line between the policing that must be done by humans, and what can be done by artificial intelligence doesn't seem exactly clear.

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