This startup helps businesses abide by privacy laws by using AI

This startup helps businesses abide by privacy laws by using AI

A fresh suite of AI-enabled tools aimed at assisting startups and other small businesses in keeping up with constantly evolving privacy regulations was unveiled on Wednesday by Common Sense Privacy, a for-profit spinoff of the nonprofit content and privacy rating organization Common Sense Media, supported by the AI Fund. One of those tools is a privacy policy wizard that generates draft privacy policies and provides guidance on filling out the privacy “nutrition labels” that app stores now require using large language model (LLM) artificial intelligence.

“We take them through a TurboTax-like online guided interview process that really helps identify what their practices are, and essentially helps them create some of those artifacts that are being required right now,” says Common Sense Privacy CEO Daphne Li.

The wizard shows up at a time when businesses of all sizes are facing pressure to create strong privacy policies in order to comply with an increasing number of privacy laws and demands made by online retailers such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

“If you look at a lot of the very new regulations, frankly, it’s challenging for small startups without the massive compliance machinery to comply with them,” says Andrew Ng, a former cofounder of Coursera and Google Brain who is currently managing general partner at AI Fund. AI Fun d recently led a $5 million funding round for Common Sense Privacy. “And what that means, frankly, is many startups are unfortunately not able to reasonably comply with these.”

Additionally, a privacy scorecard and dashboard are now available from Common Sense Privacy. The wizard assists in recording the current actions of companies, while the dashboard assesses their current practices in comparison to industry standards and regulations, providing suggestions for improvement. According to Li, “We offer practical suggestions, we try to meet people where they are, and offer some suggestions on how they might close those gaps,” 

Also, Common Sense Privacy intends to provide a seal that is visible to the public for businesses that achieve high scores on the privacy scoreboard. There is a waitlist in place for access to all of the services.

The business charges a subscription fee for its services. The tools also allow clients to view the potential effects on their legal compliance and scorecard ratings of decisions they might make, such as monetizing certain aspects of their customer data.

VoiceThread is a multimedia discussion platform that prioritizes user privacy and works with educational institutions such as colleges and school districts. Common Sense Privacy had some early clients with VoiceThread. Even with his background working on privacy issues, cofounder and CEO Steven Muth says he found the scorecard process helpful, and he imagines it would be at least as helpful for organizations just starting to tackle privacy issues.

“The dashboard is just a very usable way for a novice product manager [or] product developer to look and go, ‘Oh, that’s how this is going to impact our score,’ and then you get to make a decision,” Muth says.

Li stresses that any privacy policies that the wizard tool suggests ought to be regarded as preliminary. A human reviewer can still be beneficial when it comes to many AI-generated documents. “Sometimes you might fill things in and then when you actually see it on paper, it might actually spark additional questions,” the expert says. Additionally, before the policies are published, some businesses might still want to have their lawyers evaluate them.

Li believes that users will need to make fewer and fewer changes to their generated policies after working with the initial set of customers and improving the AI systems and questionnaires. According to Common Sense Privacy, AI is currently quite good at deciphering the subtleties of privacy laws.

“Fortunately, we found that LLMs are actually pretty good at helping to automate some of these assessments,” says Ng.