How does it work?
PLOT4ai is a library containing 86 threats classified using the following 8 categories:
Technique & Processes
|Our processes and/or technical actions can have an adverse impact on individuals or cause harm|
|We are not providing the ability to access and use our AI systems considering all type of individuals|
Identifiability & Linkability
|Individuals can be linked to certain attributes or individuals and they can also be identified|
|We can cause harm or have an adverse impact on individuals by not protecting our AI systems and processes from security threats|
|We do not recognize hazards and protect individuals from harms or other dangers|
|We do not inform individuals and offer them the possibility to intervene|
|We do not reflect on matters of value and principles that can have an adverse impact on individuals or cause harm|
|We do not comply with data protection law and/or other regulations|
PLOT4ai was created having LINDDUN GO as inspiration. It contains five new categories that are not part of LINDDUN: Technique & Processes, Ethics & Human Rights, Accessibility, Safety and Security.
And it keeps four of the original categories from LINDDUN: Identifiability & Linkability, Unawareness and Non-compliance. In PLOT4ai, Identifiability & Linkability have been joined in one category; the reason for this is that for some people it is difficult to distinguish between these two concepts and in some scenarios, they can also be closely related.
Development Life Cycle
In privacy it’s essential to look at the data life cycle. AI/ML is an iterative process where data plays an important role in all the different phases and that is why it is important to check which development methodology you are using when creating models. This will also help you to capture more possible threats when threat modeling your AI system.
PLOT4ai contains a set of only 4 Development Life Cycle (DLC) phases:
Comparing different methodologies (see table below), you can see that most of them consider similar phases that involve the whole data lifecycle.
In PLOT4ai the phases have been simplified to make it more accessible for non-technical stakeholders. As you can see below, the building blocks are simpler than the ones used in other methodologies, but still they can be easily aligned with other methodologies.
|Business Understanding||Analyze||Business Understanding||Problem Mutation||Design|
|Sample||Data Understanding||Design||Data acquisition & understanding||Data Preparation||Input|
|Explore||Data Preparation||Data understanding|
|Model||Modeling||Configure & Build||Modeling||Model assembly||Modeling|
|Operate & Optimize||Maintaining & decommissioning|
- SEMMA: Analytics Lifecycle, SAS Institute
- CRISP-DM: Cross-industry standard process for data mining, ESPRIT
- ASUM-DM: Analytics Solutions Unified Method, IBM
- TDSP: Team Data Science Process, Microsoft
- MDM: Model Development Process, Przemyslaw Biecek
- PLOT4ai: Privacy Library Of Threats :-)
Data Flow Diagram
In threat modeling it is common practice to use a Data Flow Diagram (DFD) as a visual representation of the system you are going to analyse. A DFD offers you a good overview of the possible flows of data thereby making it easier to spot threats.
When threat modeling an AI/ML system you could start with a basic way of representing the data flow:
But you can also use a more complex representation, showing for instance the end points and interactions with other systems when you are collecting, receiving or sharing data, when you are storing your training data and/or models in the cloud, when you are using ML libraries, when and where APIs are used, etc...
For threats related to the categories: Technique & Processes, Identifiability & Linkability, Security and Non-Compliance, the use of a more detailed DFD is advisable. The DFD should be considered a live representation that will evolve as a result of your threat modeling analysis. Don’t be afraid to start with a basic DFD, with the time it will hopefully transform into an actual representation of your AI systems and its interactions.
Threats as Cards
PLOT4ai provides threats in the form of cards just like LINDDUN GO does. The cards have different colours depending on the category they belong to.
Each card represents a possible threat brought to you as an elicitation question. Questions can help to bring the right focus and facilitate engagement. Especially in the design phase, where there is a lot to decide, this approach can be very beneficial.
This is what you can find on a card:
The cards have icons on the top representing the category they belong to and the Development Life Cycle where the threat could apply.
Why do some cards have more than one category icon?
All threats fall under a main category; this is represented by the colour of the card and the first icon on the left. But some threats could also fall under other categories; these categories appear as an extra icon on the right side besides the main category icon.
Why do some cards have more than one DLC icon?
Most of the threats can be applied to more than one phase of the Development Life Cycle.
Although it is recommended to go through all the threats during the design phase, this might not be necessary if your organisation already has a strong quality process implemented and a certain organisational maturity level.
You can also find cards with all 4 icons of the DLC on the right side. The reason for this is that some threats can have an impact throughout the whole life cycle, and new events during the first phases could trigger changes that create new threats or open ones that were thought to be mitigated.
The physical card deck contains 86 paper cards that are very similar to the digital version.
The only difference in the paper version is that all the cards contain a QR in the back that you can scan to see the online version. The links in the section "Interesting resources/references" have been replaced by the QR. The cards from the "Ethics & Human Rights" category contain also a QR code with a link to the EU Charter of fundamental rights.
How to apply PLOT4ai in practice
PLOT4ai can be played like a card game using the physical card deck or the digital version of the cards. Simply choose what works best for you, relax, and have some fun!
Quick tips before starting
- Sessions should not be longer than 1.5, max. 2 hours to avoid tiredness and lack of focus. You can also do 30 min. timeboxed sessions focussing on just one or two specific categories.
- It is important to identify all the relevant stakeholders that need to be present in the session. Especially during the design phase, it is recommended that you involve all the people that have the knowledge and can take decisions. Remember that diversity is very important!
- A facilitator is needed to guide the sessions. Decide who will be taking this role. It does not have to be a privacy expert but having some knowledge can be helpful.
- Preparing for the session by selecting the right questions is very important. For instance, after the design phase, once the requirements are (more) clear, try to avoid selecting cards related to threats that are already taken care of during your quality assurance and control process. Not doing this will otherwise feel like a duplication of work and create frustrations.
- If prioritization of the threats is important, consider adding an extra column for Effort in the Threat Report Template (see step 8 below). The priority can then also take into account the effort that is required.
- This is like a game. Establish clear rules for time boxing: how long can discussions last per threat and when is an exception allowed.
- Gather a group of stakeholders to create a DFD of the system and interaction elements you want to analyse. A simple representation of the way the data might be flowing can be sufficient during the design phase. You could even jump into the threat modeling session without a DFD; depending on the use-case it is not always essential to have one.
- Select cards for the session; you can randomly pick them or focus on a specific category. See also the Quick Tips.
- With or without DFD, gather all the important stakeholders - now is when the actual threat modeling session will start.
- For each selected card, read out loud the question and the extra info provided on the card.
- Discuss the possible threat together. Time box how long you want to think about an answer: 2
minutes per answer can be sufficient but consider accepting exceptions if extra time is
required because the group finds it difficult to reach consensus.
When threat modeling the category Ethics & Human Rights consider giving more time per question. This category usually asks for a higher level of reflection in the group.
- The card will indicate if answering YES or NO to the main question means that you have found a threat. If you are not sure, then it is always a possibility that you have found a threat.
- If you have found a threat, turn the card to read the recommendations. This is optional though - you can also decide to do that after the session.
- Document the threat. You can use the Threat Report Template that we provide for that.
- Mark the question as a threat in the file and quickly discuss with the group if the threat should
be classified as a Low, Medium or High risk. This is helpful to prioritize actions. You can also
take the opportunity to write down some notes about possible actions and even indicate a
- You are finished when time is over or when all cards are examined.
- Threats can also be added to your project backlog (in Jira for instance).
- You can decide to focus on easy/quick fixes first and later follow up on the rest.
- You will find threats that can be considered like a warning, but that are not really risks yet that you can mitigate at that moment. It is also important to document these threats and review them regularly.
- Consider establishing (privacy) acceptance criteria within your development team(s).
- In Agile: you can do privacy refinements to go through all the privacy user stories in the backlog.
- You can train your team in knowledge areas such as privacy, data protection and ethics. This can also be beneficial to facilitate the threat modeling sessions.
- Organisations can benefit from the fact that some of the threats play a more global role what will lead to a consequent improvement of processes. That is why it is important to register the threats and have an overview of what has been mitigated already. This can also be useful for KPI reporting.
- Another clear benefit is the reduction of rework: simply because the purpose is more clear and expectations regarding issues like bias, discrimination or explainability can be better managed.
- The threat modeling sessions also bring all stakeholders on the same page, reducing time spent in endless discussions.
- The output of the sessions can be also used in your (Data) Privacy Impact Assessments, what also saves time.
- It brings structure and focus to the teams, increases knowledge and collaboration.
"By applying privacy threat modelling to AI/ML we have learned to humanize the machine. The combination of human and machine learning is clearly beneficial for the creation of safe, respectful and privacy friendly products." PLOT4ai
We are still working on an instruction video where we go through the guidelines that can be found on this page
work in progress
See our downloads page for instructions on how to download the library