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TECH SA: Pros and cons of artificial intelligence technology

SAN ANTONIO – Many people interact with artificial intelligence, such as Siri or Alexa, in some form on a daily basis. And now companies are using AI software that will mine your moves on social media to better target you with ads.

AI is a computer program or machine that can think, learn, plan and problem solve.

Phil Menard, assistant professor of cybersecurity at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said companies are interested in collecting information about their consumers to make better decisions about how to market to them.

“So the part where AI comes in is that there's so much more computing power data in storage and ability to compute the large amounts of data that people can make decisions based on algorithms rather than just looking at data,” Menard said.

Menard said there are positives and negatives to this technology.

“The good could potentially benefit customers because they're having marketing that's more geared to their own interests. The bad side is that some people tend to find that a little bit creepy that the systems are essentially knowing what they're thinking before they're even thinking it,” Menard said. “Data is basically the currency of business now. The more data you have, the more valuable your company can be."

Menard said you may not be aware, but companies are collecting information and sometimes you approve it by signing a user license agreement.

“Sometimes you'll see ads pop up where you're thinking, 'I didn't even conduct a search for that,'" Menard said. "They're able to aggregate all of this previous behavior from you in the way that you use your systems, and they can figure out this is what you're interested in."

People KSAT spoke with had mixed emotions.

“I’ll be talking to friends about some stuff and then the next thing you know, I get on Instagram and, hey, shoes pop up, and sometimes I don’t know how they get it,” Taylor Smith said.

“If you want to connect with people online, like through Twitter, social media, to stay connected ... you kind of have to accept that. If I can choose, like, to not let them have my information, I would do that,” Elijah Garza said.

FunnelAI, a local company, collects data from public posts on social media platforms and other online public forums.

Sri Kamma launched the company in 2017 with his sister, Suja.

The company started at Geekdom, a coworking space, and has grown since then to acquire close to 100 customers. 

“We're helping these dealers rather than them sitting and solving through millions of posts. I can help them filter that,” Sri Kamma said.

The company is also taking AI to the San Antonio community. It hosts a meetup once a month to educate people about this technology.

Menard said he’s also interested in how this technology will evolve.

“I'm also looking towards there being continued talks on legislation regarding the right to be forgotten. What that means is, let's say your information is out there; you could say, 'I have the right to be forgotten by these companies.' and essentially you would have the right to go to these companies and say, 'Wipe out my private information,'” Menard said.


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Tiffany Huertas

Tiffany Huertas is known for her in-depth storytelling and her involvement with the community.