This short Q&A was featured in our Summer edition of the DisruptiveTech newsletter. If you would like to receive our newsletter regularly, please click here.

Kolvin Stone, partner and head of technology at Fox Williams, spoke with Kristin Johnston, Associate General Counsel, AI, Privacy, and Security at Afiniti. Afiniti is a leading provider of contact center AI that helps brands develop better relationships with their customers.

Kristin has 11+ years of experience advising for-profit and non-profit companies on regulatory compliance in both the United States and international markets, including designing and building global privacy and responsible AI compliance programs.

Q1: What advice would 2023 Kristin give to 2018 Kristin?

Continue to maintain your focus and interest in both privacy and AI. The regulatory landscape on both topics is going to expand rapidly, so stay the course and buckle up for a roller coaster ride in the most exciting and trending areas of law.

Q2: What attracted you to tech and AI?

Over the course of my career, I increasingly became fascinated by both the innovative use of data in products and services and the legal implications around their use, particularly on a global regulatory scale.

I balance that fascination against a famous Carl Sagan quote from nearly 30 years ago, when he wrote, “I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues.”

I like this quote because it serves as a helpful reminder about the “why” behind responsible AI, the ethical use of data, and the increasingly critical need to implement privacy and AI governance programs.

Q3: How do you relax?

In my free time, I enjoy ramping up my language skills in both French and Spanish (I am proficient in both). Of course, I’m leveraging tech to do so and use the popular Duolingo app on a regular basis. I like the way it gamifies the user experience and quickly ramps up my knowledge base in both languages.

Q4: What do you see as the role of data ethics and governance in shaping a business’s approach to AI?

Data ethics and governance are more critical today than ever before. They are absolutely foundational for companies designing, developing, deploying, evaluating, or acquiring AI systems.

Regardless of how a company is interacting with an AI system, it should be mindful of governance programs in relation to data ethics throughout the data supply chain, including how the company collects, protects, and uses data.

For example, a cross-functional team of stakeholders across legal, privacy, data governance, product, and information security should be involved in data ethics initiatives. They should establish a set of responsible AI principles applicable to their organization, such as explainability, transparency, fairness, and data protection.

Implementation guidelines for each principle should be created in order to help embed these principles and related protocols across the organization.

Q5: What advice do you have for lawyers who want to succeed in this industry?

Always remember that “simplicity is genius”. Clear communication is essential to translate certain legal requirements within an enterprise, encourage adoption of a process, or drive certain behaviour.

Likewise, it’s important to simplify the legal terms and concepts associated with global privacy and AI regulations in ways that are relatable and easy to understand. Always explain the “why” behind a certain requirement and how it benefits consumers, clients, the company and society.

Ultimately, your privacy and responsible AI compliance programs should live beyond policy documents and be sufficiently embedded across the organization through clear communication, training, and adoption of new behaviours and processes.

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