May 10th, 2024 meeting

DATE:May 10th, 2024
TIME:2:00pm to 4:00pm (PDT)
VENUE:Zoom Online meeting
TOPIC:New Threats to Democracy in the Era of Generative AI
PRESENTER: Konstantin Beznosov, Ph.D. (UBC Professor)


In Montreal, on May 24, 2023, in a panel on challenges of artificial intelligence (AI) to modern civilization, world-renowned historian and author Yuval Noah Harari said: “If you are talking with someone, you need to know whether it’s a human or an AI. If we don’t do that, then the public conversation collapses, and democracy cannot survive.” This quote succinctly summarises one of the key growing concerns that the generative AI (GenAI) is posing a real and significant risk to democratic discourse and, as a result, to democratic societies around the globe. To bring it close to home, Prof. Yoshua Bengio, the scientific director of the Mila-Quebec AI Institute and the most prominent Canadian expert in AI, warned the House of Commons Industry Committee on February 5, 2024 that the country is at risk of seriously endangering its democratic institutions. AI-driven manipulation of voice, video, or text “can fool a social media user and make them change their mind on political questions” said Bengio. As some researchers put it, GenAI “threatens to interfere with democratic representation, undermine democratic accountability, and corrode social and political trust.” If this vulnerability is potent, its exploitation by organised criminal groups and/or state-sponsored threat agents (e.g., to influence voters in national elections) can have devastating repercussions on Canada and other democratic societies. This talk will discuss the above vulnerabilities and the corresponding risks to modern democracy.


Dr. Beznosov founded and directs the Laboratory for Education and Research in Secure Systems Engineering (LERSSE) at the University of British Columbia. His primary research interests are usable privacy and security (UPS), AI and security, and systems security. Prior to joining UBC in 2004, Prof. Beznosov worked as a Security Architect at two start-ups, where he designed and developed products for security integration of enterprise applications, as well as consulted large telecommunication and banking organizations on the architecture of security solutions for distributed enterprise applications. While at UBC, Dr. Beznosov has been actively collaborating with a broad spectrum of experts (most recently: Samsung, Telus, Microsoft Research, Google, UC Berkeley, Honeywell, Oregon State Univ., Univ. of Lisbon, Yahoo!), on diverse research projects from network security to web and mobile privacy & security, to human and social factors of computer security. Over the 20 years of his academic career, Dr. Beznosov served on program committees and/or helped to organise top international conferences in the fields of cybersecurity (ACM CCS, IEEE Symposium on Security & Privacy, USENIX Security, NDSS, ACSAC, SACMAT, NSPW) and human aspects of cyber security & privacy (USENIX SOUPS, Privacy and Security subcommittee of ACM CHI), served as an associate editor of ACM Transactions on Information and System Security (TISSEC) and Elsevier’s Computers & Security. He currently serves on the program committees of USENIX Security ‘24 and ACM CHI ‘24.