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56% of tech professionals say companies do not have ethical principles for AI

Written by Fri 13 Oct 2023

More than half of tech professionals (56%) said their company does not have, or are unsure if they have, ethical principles guiding the use of generative AI, according to Deloitte.

In the second edition of State of Ethics and Trust in Technology, 74% of companies have already begun testing generative AI, while 65% have implemented it for internal use.  

Deloitte said the recent development in generative AI has spurred the need for even greater attention to the ethical dimensions of emerging technologies.  

“While generative AI tools offer significant possibilities, it comes with the potential to inflict great human harm and reputational or financial damage to the organisations that produce and use them,” said Deloitte. 

With generative AI predicted to add £3.5 trillion ($4.4 trillion) in value annually to the global economy, Deloitte stressed the need for organisations to consider formulating and promoting ethical principles in the context of impending regulation. 

Concerns With AI Usage

Respondents expressed trepidation about generative AI’s potential downsides. Data privacy is the biggest concern associated with generative AI tools among respondents, with 22% expressing concern with its use.   

Deloitte said developers and scientists acknowledge machine learning-based language models (LLMs) can inadvertently leak information from the data used to train them. This has the potential to expose sensitive data including personally identifiable information (PII). 

“If LLMs are designed without addressing data protection, it risks incidents like training data extraction attacks, using queries to extract specific pieces of data,” said Deloitte. 

A total of 14% of respondents expressed concerns with transparency and 12% were worried about data poisoning, alongside IP ownership and data provenance. Others expressed unease with job displacement, data hallucinations, and intellectual property and copyright. 

How Can Organisations Safely Incorporate AI?

To utilise AI effectively and ethically, Deloitte suggested steps for companies to take to rethink their development strategy. These steps included:

  • Exploration: Companies can familiarise themselves with the technology and development approaches. Exploring use cases can foster innovation and lay the groundwork for creating road maps to incorporate generative AI
  • Governance: Formulating and abiding by robust standards and protocols can help prevent potential risks and harms of Generative AI.
  • Trainings/Education: Training could encompass courses in the ethical principles of the company governing AI, and technical training that focuses on the diverse LLMs and how use cases should be enabled.
  • Pilots: As part of introducing AI, companies should consider proof of concepts and pilot programmes. Pilots and proofs of concepts can provide time to discuss the ethical, legal, regulatory, risk, and operational aspects of generative AI 

The Cost of Ethical Missteps

Deloitte said the onus for creating ethically sound technologies is increasingly placed on companies that design and develop those technologies. 

“As technologies grow more powerful, so does the potential for harm. And with any technology-related ethical misstep made by organisations, trust that took years to build can erode in an instant. Given the importance reputation can have on long-term success, organisations should prioritise ethical principles,” said Deloitte.   

The report stated that of the respondents, 38% believed reputational damage was the most severe outcome of ethical missteps, followed by human damage at 27%, regulatory penalties at 17%, and financial damage at 9%. 

Deloitte said the harm from ethical missteps, like misusing AI, can add up. One study estimated workplace misconduct cost US businesses £16.2 billion ($20 billion) in 2021. 

Most respondents said companies lack a review board and/or process to review ethical standards for existing and new technology both at 56%. 

The report found only 27% of survey respondents’ companies collaborate with other commercial organisations, with only 23% collaborating with government organisations to review ethics concerns. 

The Benefits of Upholding Ethical Principles

However, companies that proactively establish and uphold ethical principles in technology use cases help ‘foster trust amongst stakeholders, solidify their brand reputation, and increase profitability’. 

Companies can establish principles governing technologies through meeting compliance and regulatory standards, following company culture, following standards of conduct, and defining specific ethical standards.

Deloitte encouraged companies to collaborate with peer organisations and regulatory bodies to establish robust standards.  

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Written by Fri 13 Oct 2023

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