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AI in Southeast Asia: ethical risks as e-commerce firms adapt new technologies

In exploring the impact of AI in Southeast Asia, e-commerce companies, experts and customers share how machine-learning is streamlining online shopping and helping retailers get to know buyers better. But at what cost?

AI technologies are stepping in to make the shopping experience more seamless, changing people's retail behaviour and potentially altering regions urban planning in the long term, analysis told CNA.

However, they caution that, like most technologies, AI in e-commerce is a double-edged sword. In Southeast Asia, where e-commerce is one of the region's fastest growing sectors, as noted by the regional industry magazine Retail Asia.

AI is not new to e-commerce. Many companies have been leveraging this technology for years, possibly for about a decade, according to Mr Simon Wintels, a partner in the retail and consumer packaged goods division the consulting firm McKinsey & Company in Singapore.

Dr Unaizah highlighted that AI is sometimes known to "hallucinate," perceiving non-existent patterns, and coming up with nonsensical results to queries. Dr Unaizah also added that creating advertisements with the help of AI could cause major threats if data fed into AI algorithms for training is not accurate or if it is biased. It could miss the correct target audience or discriminate against certain groups in the advertisement, leading to undesired lawful actions.

Companies must be accountable for any negative consequences stemming from their AI-driven marketing strategies, including misinformation dissemination or the exploitation of vulnerable demographics, Dr Unaizah opined.

There are also risks to data privacy and security. AI technology relies on data inputs to train its models, and these data sources may contain potentially sensitive information or disclose the mechanisms companies use to verify user accounts.

Conclusion AI is a useful technology all around the world, because of its capabilities to do mostly everything. AI can also be dangerous, as it can capture data that cannot be seen in the human eyes.

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