• Angelica Sirotin

2021 Is The Year of AI Ethics Scandals

With an increasing focus on Ethical AI use, we can expect the ousting of more senior executives from companies due to scandals related to ethical AI violations.

Ever since AI began to permeate all bounds of society, from facial recognition technology to drones, Smart IoT devices and more, the question of its ethical use has increasingly come into play. Governments around the world along with large enterprises, such as Microsoft, Google, and IBM, have all come out with Ethical AI principles they strive to achieve. However, regardless of this forward-thinking advancement, because AI Ethics has stepped into the spotlight, we can expect much more scrutiny of its use and related scandals to emerge.


For example, in the recent past, Google fired its top ethical AI expert Margaret Mitchell, citing violations of company protocol. In addition to Mitchell, another lead AI researcher, Timnit Gebru was fired. As per ZDNet, “Gebru claimed that she was fired due to her criticism of Google for "silencing marginalized voices" and her status as a co-author of a research paper urging tech giants to make sure AI language systems do not promote gender bias. Google claimed the AI expert resigned.”

As a result of all of this, Google is changing its diversity policy, and the removal of Mitchell, “preceded reorganization of Google's AI teams working on ethics and fairness as well as change in the company's research and diversity policies.” For those interested in Google’s Ethical AI framework, here is a brief overview (more details can be found here):

  1. Be socially beneficial

  2. Avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias

  3. Be built and tested for safety

  4. Be accountable to people

  5. Incorporate privacy design principles

  6. Uphold high standards of scientific excellence

  7. Be made available for uses that accord with these principles

Google isn’t the only company with Ethical AI tenets. As mentioned, large corporations like Microsoft and IBM come with their own set. In any case, the bottom line is that with an increasing focus on Ethical AI use, we can expect the ousting of more senior executives from companies due to scandals related to ethical AI violations. This is my prediction for 2021, and the trend is just getting started.

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