Google

Google AI Ethics Council Set Back By Staff Petition

As Google pursues deals for cloud computing, the tech company formed a council to handle artificial intelligence (AI) challenges. The council is facing the departure of a behavioral economist, and a staff petition to remove another member, Bloomberg reported.

Behavioral economist and privacy researcher Alessandro Acquisti said on Twitter, according to the outlet, “While I’m devoted to research grappling with key ethical issues of fairness, rights and inclusion in AI, I don’t believe this is the right forum for me to engage in this important work.”

At the same time, staffers are reportedly seeking to remove another member through a petition.

AI is reportedly front and center to the future of Google, which has paid top researchers to work for the tech company, and has acquired startups in the space. The innovation is gaining increased importance, as the growth of revenue at its unit for core search ads slows. The council was also said to be designed for regular meetings, and to place a check on decisions by the tech company.

The news comes as Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is creating what Reuters called in March “a global advisory council to consider ethical issues around artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.” The group reportedly includes experts in AI, in addition to people with experience in public policy, digital ethics and other areas. One of the council’s goals was to publish a report involving AI, along with ethics associated with it.

Google has already made ethical stances related to AI. It published ethical guidelines for its use of artificial intelligence last year, following its decision to not renew a drone contract with the U.S. Department of Defense. While that relationship with the government resulted in fierce opposition inside the company, it was not the only criticism Google has received regarding its use of AI. Image search from the company has, for instance, come under fire for perpetuating preconceptions based on the data in the search index of Google.

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