Artificial intelligence and the need for data protection in legal system

The world is connected with wide usage of Internet, social media sites/applications and smart technology. Data travels across the world with no territorial barriers. According to statistics, India has the second highest Internet population in the world with 400 million users as of 2018. This makes India a data rich country, and unfortunately, easily exploitable as well, due to the challenging and evolving times to protect the data of such a populous country.


Before embarking into the world where Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data plays a huge role, let us introspect for a minute. Are you aware of the ginormous share of your daily life that is encompassed by smart and modern technology, in other words AI? The answer may surprise many people, as AI is always mixed up with computer technology. The most basic example of AI is the predictive text on your keypad of your smartphone that obtains data on the words often used by you and displays those series words whenever you type a sentence. Another example is the app which we all profoundly use- Google Maps. Google Maps uses AI to identify traffic and other obstructions in order to provide the quickest route to the destination. As per Oxford dictionary, Artificial intelligence is defined as “the study and development of computer systems that can copy intelligent human behaviour.”

 Brief History of Artificial Intelligence 

The developments in the field of AI increased at a rapid rate in the 1900s, but the history dates back several centuries when thinkers and philosophers pondered over the idea of a machine that could mimic or imbibe the human knowledge and behaviour. Several depictions of an all function machine/ computer were made through literature and arts by authors or playwrights. One of the most famous depictions was in the novel “Gulliver’s Travels” (1726) by Jonathan Swift ,wherein there was a reference to an engine which could improve knowledge and help in mechanical operations. 

In the 1930s, robots and computers were created which had limited functions such as Gakutensoku the robot from Japan and Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) which could solve up to 29 simultaneous linear equations. The 1950s saw meaningful discoveries and hypotheses in the field of AI. The term “Artificial Intelligence” was coined by John McCarthy in 1956.

 The 1960s saw a surge in innovations, with the use of robots in manufacturing processes and the development of AI program-STUDENT which solved algebra problems. The surge in innovations continued in the 1970s, mainly focusing on the development of robots and automations, even though the government reduced their support in the research. The growth of AI continued to accelerate in the 1980s, despite the reduced funding. This period was inevitably called “AI Winter”. The first driverless van was developed in this time by Mercedes-Benz. 

In the 1990s and 2000s, there were several types of inventions made, including a chess playing computer by IBM, a robotic pet dog made by Sony and an artificially intelligent humanoid ASIMO by Honda. The present decade marks a decade full of promising creations for the future generations, with the number of machines, types of new technology and software growing exponentially. AI experts term this phase as “Deep Learning” from the AI boom.

 Key Concepts of Artificial Intelligence

 AI is not just smart technology, it is much more vast and advanced, beyond ordinary human knowledge and scope. There are three basic concepts, which outline the way AI functions. 

Machine Learning(ML)- It is a subset of AI, consisting of the notion that computer systems can learn on their own from data obtained from previous tasks and experiences. An example of ML is online transportation networks, wherein the app estimates the price of the ride. 

Deep Learning (DL)- It is another subset of AI, referring to the system’s ability to collect data on its own, analyse it and apply it. This allows the machine to use algorithms for developing their own criteria and new parameters.

 Example- Autonomous vehicles. Neural Networks- They imitate neurons (brain cells), use computer science and maths to mimic the functioning of the human brain. This allows the data to be computed in different layers of neurons.

 Importance of Artificial Intelligence

 The importance of AI can be highlighted through the boom period of innovations, creations and development since the 1950s. Thus, the big question arises, why is AI important? As complex as the algorithm used in AI is, the importance of Artificial Intelligence is fairly simple. 

Processing capacity-In today’s world, the incredible technology used to devise AI is capable of processing the vast amount of data that exists, the level of processing is unmatchable. Data is the big chip in the market that helps attaining success, and with the best application of AI, data can be processed, analysed in depth and used for benefits. 

Analysing power- AI has great analysing techniques with the usage of neural networks that brings out deeper levels of data which can have hidden layers. For example, looking back 7-8 years, it was difficult to imagine a smart system that would filter our emails into different categories such as junk, promotion, personal or spam. However, this classification has been made achievable through the development in AI.

 Mimicking human characteristics-The goal of developing AI is achieved when it mimics two important human characteristics: adaptation and intelligence. Through the usage of algorithms and neural networks, AI finds common patterns and structure in the data, making it a classifier or predictor, basing its actions on the data. For example, when you look at a particular genre of videos on YouTube, such as stand-up comedy, YouTube will analyse the selection of your viewing history and provide similar suggestions to make your search easier. Intelligence is achieved when AI is added to gadgets, such as Siri in Apple phones or Amazon’s Alexa in a speaker which makes it a smart speaker. 

Accuracy-Another human characteristic that AI has mimicked is the need for accuracy. AI achieves accuracy that is unattainable by humans with faster speed and deep neural networks, thus saving time. Given the substantive rate of accuracy, AI is also used in the medical field to scan and analyse medical reports. A study tested an AI algorithm to detect skin cancers against dermatologists, and it performed it on humans. 

Drawbacks of Artificial Intelligence 

Despite the advantages of AI that pave the way for a bright future for technology, there are several downsides to AI that needs to be looked upon. The drawbacks are:

 Unemployment- AI masters repetitive tasks at a much greater speed which can lead to unemployment of labourers at the manufacturing and automation sectors. 

A two-year study from McKinsey Global Institute suggests that by 2030, intelligent agents and robots could replace as much as 30 percent of the world’s current human labour.

 High cost of development and implementation- The cost of programming and installing such high-end intelligence is exorbitant, which increases overall cost of companies. For exampleAmazon acquired Alexa for $26 million in 2013.

 Lack of creativity- AI runs on the data provided to it, it adapts and programmes the algorithm accordingly. It cannot create any new ideas on its own, unless the data patterns suggest it, thus it lacks creativity which is a characteristic in humans.

 Doesn’t improve with experience- It is a key characteristic in humans to grow and gain experience which helps them learn and enhances their quality of life and work. However, AI cannot materialise experience into a fruitful derivation and grow, it is solely dependent on data, algorithms and neural networks for analysis and functioning. 

Cannot replace humans emotionally- Machines cannot develop human connections and sentiments. They have no moral values, ethics or feelings. Therefore, AI cannot replace humans entirely. 

The need for data protection in the legal system Artificial Intelligence’s staggering progress over the decades encapsulates the prowess of humans in this field and the significance of AI. However, the advanced mechanization has brought about a steady increase in the abuse of the system to deceit and rob people of their information and security. The rise in fraudulent activities necessitates compelling laws to curb the menace.

 The world is connected with wide usage of internet, social media sites/ applications and smart technology. Data travels across the world with no territorial barriers. According to statistics, India has the second highest internet population in the world with 400 million users as of 2018. This makes India a data rich country, and unfortunately, easily exploitable as well, due to the challenging and evolving times to protect the data of such a populous country. 

Data protection is a law that protects personal data and ensures there is no abuse or exploitation of data by companies. We provide data to 3rd parties and companies while filing out registration forms or even when purchasing products online. Apart from that, without our knowledge, data is generated. Data protection is essential to exercise the right to privacy as enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The volume of data that is generated and processed is so vast, combined with modern technology such as tracking and AI, portrays the urgency to have an effective legislation to ensure utmost protection of data and to keep businesses in check. Moreover, the government needs to provide effective regulation to gain the confidence of the public in the companies to which data is given.

 Along with data protection from companies, data needs to be protected from potential theft, i.e. cybercrimes. Cybercrime can be defined as a criminal activity that either targets or uses a computer, a computer network or a networked device. There are several types of cybercrimes that take place , such as internet fraud, theft and sale of corporate data, cyberextortion and cyberespionage. 

A simple internet search into cybercrimes will provide astonishing factoids into the occurrences of cybercrime. As per trends over the past years, rate of cybercrimes are increasing. According to a joint study by ASSOCHAMNEC, India has witnessed a 457% rise in cybercrime incidents under the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 from the year 2011 to 2016. Another data analysis done by NCRB shows that 1.7 cybercrimes were committed per 1 lakh population in India. India recorded 21,796 cyber crimes in 2017, an increase of 77% from 2016. Looking at the constant rise in cybercrimes, an effective legislation is required to deter criminals in the future and curb the growth rate of cases.

 Proposed Personal Data Protection (PDP ) Bill (2019) 

The PDP bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2019, following the report and the draft of the bill submitted by a Committee of Experts, constituted in July 2017, chaired by Justice B.N Shrikrishna. Through the landmark judgement in K.S Puttaswamy vs Union of India, the government set up an expert committee to devise a data protection framework. 

The bill seeks to regulate the personal data of data principals, outline the obligations of data fiduciaries and establish Data Protection Authority of India. The bill also includes penalties and compensations for those who fail to abide by the rules under the bill. Nonetheless, the bill lists out exemptions granted to the Indian Government for data collection in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, national security, friendly relations with states or public order. The bill highlights and introduces concepts in relation to data collection, data processing and data storage. Data localisation, mentioned in Section 33 of the bill, requires all the data which is collected and processed to be stored in India itself, thus placing a restriction on the transfer of personal data outside India. This could lead to an increase in costs for Multi-national Companies, who tend to store their data worldwide. Another concept is Privacy Compliance, mentioned under Chapter 6 of the bill.

 Chapter 6 entails measures relating to transparency and accountability of data fiduciaries to data principals. Consent of the data principal before acquiring their data is an essential concept, stated under Chapter 2 and Chapter 5 of the bill. On the whole, this bill represents the grasp of law over the rapid pace of the digital economy, which has raced ahead of existing legislations such as Information Technology Act 2000. 


 Artificial Intelligence has a vital role in the world, mechanising and simplifying processes in our day to day lives. AI has made an impossible idea such as autopilot/ command mode on aircrafts possible, making the flight journey entirely automated in times when pilots take breaks. AI also helps in fraud detection in financial services. AI uses past spending behaviour and transactions of customers to point out suspicious activity. The continual rise in the developments and innovation of AI indicate the pressing need of modern technology to survive and grow. The field of AI has progressed greatly over the several decades, boosting the amount of investments around the world, helping in connectivity with no barriers and taking modern science to a new level. 

This level of growth and achievement comes with the responsibility ensured through adaptive laws and regulations, whose framework have to change as per the technological innovations and provide a cohesive set of rules, to be adhered to. The misuse of data and data theft is a matter of concern which require the intervention of comprehensive laws. There are regional examples of laws which provide framework in matters of technology and protection, such as APEC Privacy Framework and EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is the main influence on the Indian PDP bill (2019). Effective legislations are essential to safeguard the rights of data providers and deter misuse of data and technology.