Main image of article Facebook, Udacity Team Up for ‘Private Artificial Intelligence’ Courses

Facebook is partnering with Udacity to supply learners with a course in “secure and private” artificial intelligence (A.I.).

And yes, “Secure and Private AI” is the name of the course, which will be hosted on Udacity. The course itself is free. Skills on offer include "Federated Learning, Differential Privacy, and Encrypted Computation," as well as an introduction to "privacy-preserving technologies" such as OpenMined's PySyft, which leverages PyTorch and other deep-learning tools to train A.I. models on "distributed private data while maintaining users' privacy," according to Udacity chief product officer Alper Tekin.

Udacity frames the new course as a continuation of its PyTorch scholarship program with Facebook from 2018, much as PySoft is an extension of PyTorch.

The free course is a feeder into a paid course where learners can gain a ‘Nanodegree,’ Udacity’s term for the certificates they offer those who complete coursework. It will work like the existing PyTorch scholarship program... and things will be very competitive. That program has 10,000 seats open for the ‘challenge course’ in PyTorch, where the top 300 students earn a full scholarship into Udacity’s Deep Learning nanodegree program. The AI course will only have 5,000 seats open for the free program.

"The most urgent barrier to the world becoming privacy preserving is the lack of talented data scientists who know how to use privacy preserving tools,” said Udacity teacher Andrew Trask. “Without data scientists who know how to properly preserve privacy, private data is either left un-used (which hurts the accuracy of our models - a critical loss in fields such as healthcare) or is put at risk through data science techniques which lack the proper privacy protections."

It’s a step in the right direction for Facebook, at least with regard to changing public perception. We expect it to glom onto several privacy-facing features or technologies for the foreseeable future, as an extension of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s missive that Facebook will morph into a private messaging platform over the next several years. What remains to be seen is if the company will try to exploit that tech for its own gain.

Already sort of evil, at least in the minds of some, Facebook is facing a huge fine for its missteps, even as it forges ahead on a virtual assistant for Oculus and its Portal in-home hardware.