Data privacy in the age of AI

Data privacy in the age of AI

Data privacy in the age of AI


Picture a day without your phone, your laptop, or the internet. This might be hard to imagine because we need these to study, to work and to do essential tasks —from ordering food to paying bills. Needless to say, digital technology has significantly improved our lives.

With these modern conveniences, there is a need for us to be more aware of how our personal data are being used by these technologies.


It is in this spirit that we celebrate Privacy Awareness Week (PAW) 2024 with the National Privacy Commission with the theme “Data Privacy For All: Embracing Inclusivity and Diversity.” This underscores the universal right to privacy of every Filipino and the need for a holistic conversation about data privacy. A key talking point in data privacy that has emerged in recent times is artificial intelligence (AI).


Understanding AI

AI is not entirely new. A Harvard University (Anyoha 2017) paper traced AI to British mathematician Alan Turing’s Computing Machinery and Intelligence. In his work, Turing posits the possibility of building intelligent machines.

Fast forward to the present, AI entered the common parlance through apps like ChatGPT or Google Gemini. Even the music streaming platform, Spotify, has launched an “AI DJ” feature that generates playlists based on a user’s listening habits.

READ: With AI comes a double-edged sword

Most recently, OpenAI launched GPT-4o (“o” stands for “omni”). GPT-4o allows users to have conversations with an AI like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. The newest iterations took AI interaction up a notch by allowing text, image, and video prompts. AI is not just something we see only in sci-fi movies anymore; it has become a part of our daily lives.

Can data privacy and AI coexist?

The widespread adoption of AI-powered applications has allowed people to become more accustomed to using these new technologies.

However, these advances have also sparked privacy concerns over AI’s data practices. An example of this was seen in October 2023 when the Department of National Defense advised military and defense personnel to avoid AI and the use of image generation apps due to potential “privacy and security risks.” These include the creation of fake profiles that could be used for malicious purposes like identity theft, social engineering, and phishing attacks.


In a related study, cloud communications company Twilio’s 2024 State of Customer Engagement Report found that 77 percent of Filipino consumers want transparency on how AI uses their data. This emphasis on transparency presents a crucial opportunity for businesses to establish trust with their customers. By openly communicating their AI data practices, companies can demonstrate responsible use of customer data and foster a more positive customer experience.

How do we ensure that the data used by AI are handled responsibly?

First, companies must comply with the Data Privacy Act of 2012. In the processing of personal information, the law underscores the importance of transparency, legitimate purpose, and proportionality in designing relevant processes.

For transparency, companies must inform users about how their data are collected and used, and for what purpose in the context of AI applications. For the legitimate purpose, the processing of data must be compatible with the declared purpose/s and must not be contrary to any law or public policy.

And lastly, the processing of information must be adequate, relevant, suitable, and necessary to ensure adherence to the principle of proportionality. By following these principles, companies can build trust with users and ensure responsible data practices in AI development.


Apart from the Data Privacy Act, there are also proposed bills in Congress that aim to regulate the use of AI (House Bill, or HB, 7396; HB 7913; HB 7983; and HB 9448). Some of the relevant provisions of these bills include the creation of a policymaking and regulatory body that will oversee the development of AI technologies, ensure compliance with ethical principles, and protect our right to privacy.

READ: AI governance: The way forward in the PH

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is also studying the impact of AI on the banking industry.

According to BSP Governor Eli Remolona Jr., they are exploring the types of guardrails and safety features that BSP can introduce to mitigate potential risks, especially since banks are exploring AI to improve their services and enhance customer experience.

This is a step in the right direction, considering that AI can transform financial services through advanced customer data analytics, AI-powered chatbots for customer concerns, and other facilities.

Riding the wave of AI innovations, the Track and Plan service of Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) uses AI to provide insights into a customer’s spending and saving habits. This service, which can be accessed using the BPI app, can help customers manage their finances better.

Quo vadis, AI?

These initiatives show that as Filipinos adopt AI, service providers should ensure that guidelines exist and are followed to assure the public that their right to privacy is upheld. Furthermore, the government is developing potential frameworks to help address concerns about the proper and ethical use of AI technologies.

If there is anything we can learn from history, technological revolutions are inevitable. Given that the world is now embracing AI, we must responsibly foster its development to mitigate potential risks. —CONTRIBUTED INQ

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The author is the enterprise information security officer and data protection officer of Bank of the Philippine Islands. This article was written in celebration of the Privacy Awareness Week 2024.

TAGS: Artificial Intelligence, Data privacy

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