This text was first published in Polish by the Polish Data Protection Office as part of an e-book following a conference on quantum computing (https://uodo.gov.pl/pl/531/2477). 

Privacy and quantum computers

Maciej Gawroński

Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.

Orange Catholic Bible, Frank Herbert, Diuna series

I am writing this text on the eve of the release of Chat GPT-4 but already after reports of the antics and potential of the new Bing[1]. Making predictions now about the development and impact of quantum computer technology on privacy is a ungrateful and scary task.

The task is ungrateful because making short-term predictions about the effects of breakthrough technologies rarely ends well. The task is also scary because terrifying ideas come to a mind filled not only with science fiction literature but also with awareness of the potential and weaknesses of computer science, as well as realisation that corporations and global decision-makers live in a world of zero accountability for their decisions.

I am a big fan of science fiction literature (hard science fiction, which should not be confused with fantasy). I read Stanisław Lem’s ‘Cyberiad’[2] at the age of 10 and ‘Dialogues’ at the age of 14[3]. However, when it comes to quantum computers and quantum artificial intelligence, it is William Gibson’s novel ‘Neuromancer’ what first comes to my mind[4]. “Neuromancer” presents a world of cyberpunk where cyberspace is an anarchic arena of constant ‘all against all’[5] warfare.

For the purpose of assessing the relationship between quantum technology and human privacy, I am assuming quantum computing is a functional technology. I have read[6] that handling errors and ensuring the consistency and reproducibility of quantum computer calculations pose significant challenges. However, these problems are expected to be overcome. Counting on the development of quantum computers being halted due to the technological rivalry between the US and China would amount to placing hopes in the World War Three. Therefore, let’s skip that possibility.

Quantum artificial intelligence. One of the greatest perceived opportunities and challenges regarding quantum computers, at least in my opinion, is the combination of AI and quantum technology[7] An artificial intelligence system with access to the vast information resources of the Internet and immense computing power would be capable of predicting and controlling all human activities in real-time. Imagine the complete application of the law at all times, or worse, absolute accountability for every violation of the law. It would be impossible to live in such a world.

Predictability. The problem is practical and philosophical. The practical problem is that we are now fully traceable, trackable, monitorable and …predictable. No chip is needed for that anymore. In fact, privacy hardly exists anymore. All the more reason why the regulation of intrusions into our privacy, the possibility of appealing decisions against us that can be automated and immediately executed, is fundamental. Philosophically, the problem lies in the fine line between determinism (the predictability of our behaviour) and free will. This issue becomes a legal problem: can we bear the consequences of events that have not yet occurred? It seamlessly transitions into a world reminiscent of ‘Minority Report’. Quantum artificial intelligence will likely be capable of predicting the crimes we commit or would have committed if pre-emptive incarceration by the prosecution had not taken place. Even now, the prosecution dedicates significant resources to attribute guilt to those already incarcerated. Full surveillance and vindication may also be facilitated by another anticipated advantage of quantum artificial intelligence—the integration of databases and the ability to detect patterns in large datasets (although this is also a great opportunity).

Surveillance and manipulation. Quantum computers and especially quantum artificial intelligence will give powerful tools to governments, organisations and individuals who will have access to it against the ordinary citizen. It will be possible to control and compromise opponents in a more or less brutal way. The question arises: who will oversee those with access to such tools? From this perspective, the merry dance of the US, the European Commission, the Cort of Justice of the European Union, and Max Schrems takes on much depth.

Cybersecurity. A classic challenge of the post-quantum era is the lack of robustness in current encryption algorithms against brute-force attacks (which means checking all possibilities until you find the one which constitutes the encryption key). American National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is actively working on developing new algorithms that are resistant to quantum computers. We will have to wait and see the outcomes of their efforts. In light of this, the question of who will have access to quantum computers becomes exceedingly important. In a world with low and uncertain levels of cybersecurity, one can easily envision the chaos and devastation that could result from certain countries or criminal organizations gaining access to this technology. On the other hand, in any scenario, the ability to break current cryptography presents an additional surveillance opportunity for the intelligence services of leading technology nations.

Deep fake. The issue of creating flawless fake representations of individuals is already becoming a reality, even without the use of quantum computers. The challenge lies in determining the authenticity of information, defending ourselves against various forms of manipulation, such as having our faces inserted into explicit content (which is already occurring), and establishing trust in digital images. This is the problem that is likely to become more prevalent in the future. It is evident that quantum computers have the potential to simulate people and other objects with an unprecedented level of precision.

Opportunities. In addition to the aforementioned challenges, quantum technology also presents significant opportunities. Who wouldn’t desire an assistant similar to Tony Stark’s Jarvis (excluding Ultron)? Perhaps advancements in personal medicine can be achieved, despite the existence of doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. Quantum technology has the potential to propel medical science to new heights. Artificial intelligence has already demonstrated its proficiency in pattern recognition, and with quantum artificial intelligence, the capabilities are expected to improve exponentially[8]. Indeed, quantum computers are anticipated to facilitate advancements in various fields of science, including mechanics, physics, astronomy, medicine, social sciences, and more. The immense computational power and capabilities of quantum computers can potentially revolutionize research and analysis in these disciplines. With their ability to process complex data and solve intricate problems, quantum computers hold promise for unlocking new discoveries and pushing the boundaries of scientific understanding across a wide range of disciplines.

Quantum technology holds potential for enhancing communication privacy through the phenomenon of quantum entanglement. Reports suggest that progress is being made in this area. While there was hope that this could enable ‘superluminal’ communication, it seems that breaking the speed of light is not possible using this method either.

Regarding privacy, quantum AI might offer a solution to the lack of transparency in conventional AI. Quantum AI could potentially provide explanations for its decisions (could a quantum AI explain itself?), addressing a real and regulatory concern. This topic is further discussed in an article I have written, which will be included in the post-seminar materials of the webinar Designing GDPR-compliant AI systems organized by the Polish Office for Personal Data Protection in collaboration with the Polish Prime Minister’s Office.

In the entertainment industry, quantum deep fake technology could have valuable applications. It may allow us to watch performances by actors who have passed away. In fact, someone has already cast James Dean in a film without relying on quantum computers. If virtual actors were to replace living ones, maybe mainstream media could spare us some of the celebrity “wisdom”.

Lastly, in the realm of quantum artificial intelligence, I perceive unique potential for Poland, Polish entrepreneurs, and more broadly for Polish taxpayers. There is some chance (though I do not want to be overly optimistic) that quantum AI will become the first being capable of understanding the new Polish Tax Deal introduced by the Government in 2022.

What to do? Regulations

The response to the threats posed by quantum computing technology must involve the development of existing regulations and the creation of new ones, along with the implementation of a system of checks and balances. Currently, we are in the stage of studying the issue and searching for practical tools and solutions that can form the basis for future legislation. There are voices, previously unheard of, advocating for a regulatory approach of acting first and reflecting later, in order to avoid delays similar to those encountered during the regulation of artificial intelligence[9].

Regulations should take into account that the level of risk is dependent on the availability of quantum computers. Therefore, possible obligations and sanctions should be tailored to the obliged entity. Companies can be penalised, but this is no longer so obvious for state bodies using quantum technologies. It will not be possible to regulate so-called ‘bad actors’ using quantum tools for fraudulent and criminal purposes. Here, post-quantum cyber security and cyber deterrence capabilities will play a special role.

And why regulation? My probably most favourite movie scene is the Joker’s monologue in Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’. When, towards the end of the film, Batman rescues the Joker by catching him on a rope and pulls him up by his leg to the height of his face, the Joker starts talking while hanging upside down and then the camera rotates 180 degrees. The Joker tells Batman that he won’t kill him because he’s too much fun to be with. But mostly he says: ‘This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object’. The Joker is referring to his collision with Batman. But I see the analogy here as a clash between technology and regulations. Technology is an unstoppable force, regulations are an immovable object. If they collide, technology can circumnavigate regulations. But it can also happen that regulations, par excellence, regulate technology.

Quantum computers and GDPR?

The use of quantum technology within the framework of data protection regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), raises several important considerations. These include:

  • who will be responsible for using quantum technology? Who will be the controller and who will be the processor in the context of data processing operations using quantum computers;
  • how the general data protection principles – e.g. the purpose limitation principle, the minimisation principle, the transparency principle or the accountability principle – apply to data processing by means of quantum technology;
  • whether data protection regulations are technology-neutral enough to cope with the advent of the post-quantum era;
  • How to give data subjects individual control over personal data processed using quantum technologies? How to implement data subjects’ rights;
  • whether the artificial intelligence certification and risk management system planned by the draft EU Artificial Intelligence Regulation will protect technology providers and users or the public, whether the data processing rules set out in the GDPR will be maintained or watered down, as happened during the so-called pandemic and as designed to some extent in the draft AI Regulation.

These are just some of the questions that will need to be answered by the development and diffusion of quantum computer technology.

The challenges posed by quantum computers and quantum AI in the areas of privacy, freedom, and access to information, unless AI becomes self-aware[10], ultimately depend on how governments and corporations choose to utilize them. Considering the experiences of the last three years and the entire 20th century, what concerns me the most about quantum computers is the potential for individuals with limited intellect or inflated egos to gain access to yet another powerful tool that they can misuse to impose their will. This apprehension can be illustrated by a picture by the talented artist Daniel Mróz, taken from Stanislaw Lem’s ‘Cyberiad’.

 

Robot Cyberiada

 

 

In conclusion

When I asked Chat GPT-3 for a quote from Dune suitable for the article’s motto, but not hinting that I already had one, GPT-3 suggested the Bene Gesserit’s ‘Litany Against Fear’:

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Could it be that artificial intelligence is suggesting that our concerns are real but we should keep a cool head?

 

[1] Reports of potential seem somewhat exaggerated. Admittedly, I have only asked Bing myself about Bill Gates, so this may not be a representative experience.

[2] Found on a shelf at my grandfather’s house, near Tarnów. 1st edition from 1967.

[3] When I set up the Bird & Bird law firm in Warsaw in 2008, I wondered what would illustrate such a good combination of tradition, technological character and our Polishness. It didn’t take long, as Daniel Mróz’s illustrations for Stanisław Lem’s ‘Cyberiad’ immediately came to mind. Thanks to the resourcefulness of our manager at the time, Paweł Dudek, we managed to get in touch with Mr Daniel Mróz’s daughter, Mrs Łucja Mróz-Raynoch. Mrs Łucja agreed to let us use the illustrations for ‘Cyberiad’. When I later moved to the law firm Maruta Wachta for a while and then opened the law firm Gawronski & Partners (now GP Partners), the works of Daniel Mróz and Stanislaw Lem followed me.

[4] Chat GPT-3 hints at Dan Simmons’ ‘Hyperion’ trilogy, however I don’t foresee for now the AIs such as there occur. Tactfully, neither Chat GPT-3 nor I, will make any reference to ‘Terminator’ or ‘Mass Effect’ games.

[5] In gaming known as “deathmatch”, “free for all”, “Battle Royale”

[6] I also read, for example, about memristors and their quantum versions 😅.

[7] I will not consider here the situation that an artificial consciousness will be created …or a new tiny universe will be born.

[8] This usefulness of KSI/QAI, of course, raises that post-humanist problem of the superfluity of such a human mass, about which the infamous populariser of transhumanism Youval Harrari writes. Except that he did not invent this problem. The automation of intellectual and physical processes will take work away from many people. But perhaps at the same time it will give another one in return? Doctors, for example, might start using KSI instead of contesting Dr Google.

[9] https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/08/21/quantum-computing-artificial-intelligence-ai-technology-regulation/

[10] Fact is, I am a speciest. 

 

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Ilustracja do „Cyberiady” Stanisława Lema, Daniel Mróz ©za zgodą Łucji Mróz-Raynoch
Ilustracja do „Cyberiady” Stanisława Lema, Daniel Mróz ©za zgodą Łucji Mróz-Raynoch