- Google on Tuesday announced a new external ethics council which will examine its development of AI.
- Google VP of Global Affairs Kent Walker said the group will look at ethical problems including “facial recognition and fairness in machine learning.”
- One of the council’s members heads up a conservative US think-tank, and was criticized by a Washington University researcher for her views on trans people and immigration.
Google has set up a new external ethics council to oversee its development of AI, but one of its members has been criticized for her views on trans people and immigration.
Google’s VP of Global Affairs Kent Walker announced the new Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) at MIT Tech Review’s EmTech Digital conference on Tuesday.
“This group will consider some of Google’s most complex challenges that arise under our AI Principles, like facial recognition and fairness in machine learning, providing diverse perspectives to inform our work,” Walker said in a blogpost.
Google has stoked anger around its development of AI in the past. In June last year, it killed off Project Maven – its military drone project – after a dozen employees resigned in protest.
Walker added that the council will meet four times over the course of 2019, starting in April. Google plans to publish a report summarising the meetings.
The eight-person council comprises mostly of AI researchers and academics, although two members have been active in American politics: William Joseph Burns and Kay Coles James.
Kay Coles James called out for her views
William Joseph Burns was Barack Obama’s deputy secretary of state from 2011 to 2014, and prior to that was ambassador to Jordan and Russia.
Kay Coles James is president of the conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation, and some critics flagged up that James has espoused anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant views.
Kate Crawford, cofounder of the AI Now Institute, said “important concerns” had been raised about James’ appointment.
So many important concerns have been raised about the Google AI Board, particularly the inclusion of the Heritage Foundation and a drone manufacturer. When we wrote 'Why Ethics is Not Enough' last year, this is what we meant https://t.co/gmbOZiFVfG pic.twitter.com/09A6QlKJte
— Kate Crawford (@katecrawford) March 27, 2019
Os Keyes, a researcher at the University of Washington, criticised Google’s appointment of James saying she “hates trans people foreigners, and the environment.”
— Os (@farbandish) March 26, 2019
Unversity of Washington researcher Anna Lauren Hoffmann said James, “openly opposes LGBTQ equality.”
What does it mean for the Chair of the Data Ethics Group of the *Alan Turing* Institute to pursue "responsible AI" with someone who openly opposes LGBTQ equality? cc @turinginst
— Anna Lauren Hoffmann (@annaeveryday) March 26, 2019
James has previously opposed allowing “biological males” in women’s bathrooms, according to a tweet, and supported Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency over his proposed border wall as “thousands of illegal aliens, dangerous criminals, drug smugglers and sex traffickers crossing [sic] the border every day.”
- Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Verge writer Nick Statt speculated that James’ appointment could be aimed at appeasing Republican lawmakers, following accusations of anti-conservative bias at Google.
Google and James (via the Heritage Foundation) were not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.