From regulations to non-governmental bodies, we look at attempts to raise standards of data ethics.
The EU General Data Protection Regulation
The GDPR is based around core principles of transparency and accountability. How these principles are translated into practical actions for business is still being developed, particularly for cutting-edge data use cases.
Right to explanation
GDPR, and national legislation like France’s Digital Republic Bill, give citizens the right to request information about algorithm-based decisions affecting their life chances.
Non-government bodies are also forming with ethics mandates like Data & Society and OpenAI (which was founded by Elon Musk). The EU also funds fact-finding and ethical advocacy network SHERPA, which is developing, through interviews, surveys and workshops, a ‘workbook’ to guide the responsible development of smart information systems which combine AI and data analytics.
Government bodies are joining the ethical debate. The UK has established the Data Ethics Council and Data Ethics Advisory Committee, part of the UK Statistics Authority. It has also set up Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, which ‘connects policymakers, industry, civil society and the public to develop the right governance regime for data-driven technologies’. The Financial Conduct Authority, the UK financial watchdog, included a focus on data ethics in its most recent business plan.
Corporate checks and balances
Innovators are building safeguards; DeepMind has installed an independent advisory panel, and formed an ethics unit in October 2017. Microsoft set up Aether, an internal committee to advise and evaluate ethical issues around AI. The group includes more than 100 Microsoft employees and is led by president Brad Smith, alongside AI and research head Harry Shum. Google established an external AI ethics board but had to disband it a week later following protests over the views of one of its members. And many senior executives at major businesses now have ethics as part of their compliance role.
The Centre will set out the measures needed to build trust and enable innovation in data-driven technologies. Trust underpins a strong economy, and trust in data underpins a strong digital economy’
Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, HM Government
Further insights on data ethics
Mo data, mo problems? What we shouldn't do
By Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
Do businesses really need to be ethical with data?
By Rachael Annear
Where does your data come from?
By Dr Brent Mittelstadt
Does data ethics get as much attention worldwide?
Our team of experts in Washington, London and Hong Kong discuss.