A decade ago, our definition of privacy was much more different than what it is now. For the majority of the population, the sign up forms of the major social networks were the first time where we voluntarily provided our personal details to an online platform, switching from an Internet strongly based on the use of nicknames to one where our online activities are an explicit extension of our personal real identity.

Even without noticing it, and partially thanks to our acknowledgment on how digital services work, we felt safer providing our personal information to them, until we transformed our society to what it's now. We went from a society which could "step in and out" of what we called Internet, to a society that blurred the line between the concept of "being in or out". And in that blurring line the truth is that we are always in.

In our socio-economic system, strongly based on the exchange of solutions and with an enormous abundance of different options to choose from, the more persuasive you are, the more you get. And even if the consumer persuasion field is as old as the business concept itself, it hasn't been until our times that businesses have gotten such an easy access to an unlimited amount of consumer personal data. And when it comes to persuasion, the more you know about the target to be persuaded, the better the strategy to increase your chances of success can be.

The role of personal data in the persuasion strategy

Let's imagine that I'm a company that wants to sell you a product. If I don't know you at all, by looking at you I can only guess your gender expression (not even your gender identity) and your age (not even with precision), and what would come next is a set of asumptions that I will make about you. Based on this input, my strategy to persuade you will be very weak and my chances to succeed very low and strongly based on a matter of luck.

Now imagine that your closest family members and friends enter into the picture. Basing my assumptions in the fact that you have grown close to your family members and that people usually surround themselves with like-minded people, the more I know about them, the more I will know about you. And If I would be able to see how you behave with them in any given day, I would definitely be able to get to know you better and improve my strategy to persuade you to buy my product.

Now imagine I can get to know almost everything that you and your closest friends and family did for the last five years. At this point, you're probably already guessing what I want to say next: that's what social networks make easy for anyone who wants to know.

The more I know about you, the greater would be my chances to persuade you to buy my product and the information to better know you it's just publicly available and relatively easy to access.

When information is available, the challenge is to know how to handle it

The hard truth is that in a society where we are always directly or indirectly connected to digital services, companies have no problem knowing who you are more accurately than what you know about yourself.

Thousands of data points from billions of people from around the world are just public and accessible, so the problem is not to get the personal information from people anymore but to be able to handle such big amount of data. That's why companies are more focused than ever on hiring experts on extraction and analysis of data and on building full teams of professionals who can define business strategies based on those insights.

Here is where Artificial Intelligence makes the difference

In this abundant market of solutions, where the companies' problem is not to know their customers but to be able to handle the knowledge they have on them on a large scale, full teams of professionals define strategies on the insights they get from their data analysis, but the profit they can make out of that is limited to the human capacity.

What humans cannot reach, the machines do, so by the usage of several different technologies that belong to the Artificial Intelligence field, companies can get even more out of your data by training machines to make decisions in no time based on what they know about you at the moment.

So what was once a single persuasion strategy for everyone, now it could be a personalized strategy just for you, and even if you think it's just an evolution of the global business ecosystem, such a great power carries great risks, and not only in business.

Social impact of Artificial Intelligence technologies

In this article I focused on the source of power of the Artificial Intelligence and the process that has brought us here. Business is a clear example on how these technologies can have a direct impact in our life, but we cannot forget the risks these technologies entail also in other very important fields such as the political one. With an impact that can literally make our system of government obsolete in no time and reshape entire countries by the impact they can have on their legitimate processes.

That's why it's very important to put our efforts to work on a strong regulation around the personal data privacy considering  the impact that the use of Artificial Intelligence technologies can have in our society.

Moreover, it's time to change the way we approach the legislation on technology-use matters, from a reactive, out of time and sometimes very inefficient approach to a more proactive one, timely and as efficient as the involvement of real tech professionals can bring to the policies definition processes.

Finally, I would like to highlight that a more proactive approach on the tech-related legislation would require the definition of solid ethic and inclusive principles that can drive the legislative work towards the society we all want to create, knowing that nowadays technology has enough presence in our social dynamics that it's a transcendental part of our values education.