Snapshot of the digital ethics discussion at CogX 2019

techUK has been following the #digitalethics debate as it unfolds at CogX this year during London Tech Week. Below we’ve captured a snapshot of what’s been discussed but do get in touch if you’d like to discuss this further.  


Digital ethics and the world of work 

On Tuesday, techUK hosted a panel session bringing together the current digital ethics debate and future of work discussion. The panel, which was chaired by techUK’s Deputy CEO, Antony Walker, included: Mike Clancy, Prospect Union; Kate Bell, TUC; Julia Rhodes Davis, Partnership on AI and Anna Byhovskaya, TUAC.  

During the discussion, the panel highlighted that many of these issues aren’t new and in fact relate to a series of age-old challenges about power relationships at work. Kate explained that in the past we’ve been stuck discussing whether robots are taking over jobs. We need to refocus on who benefits from the technology and how it’s being driven. 

There was a general consensus from the panel that the workers’ voice is currently lacking from these conversations and there is a clear need for workers to have an opportunity to escalate their concerns. The panelists highlighted a need to create spaces for dialogue and information exchange, where workers can speak up. Identifying incentive structures and opportunities for the collective worker’s voice are key. Worker representation at the board level is also essential for the long-term vision of a business. As a final thought, Julia suggested we need to be asking what world are we working towards? What future are we trying to co-create together? How can workers determine that trajectory?

Watch the panel in full below!




AI, GDPR and the limits of automated processing  

On the ethics stage, Dr Sandra Wachter from the Oxford Internet Institute highlighted the need to consider new privacy harms, such as group harms and take a more holistic approach to data protection. Currently, the way we categorise data can be artificial - personal data can be sensitive data, we just might not know it yet. Dr. Wachter also spoke about a right to reasonable inferences and highlighted that data protection is about people and privacy, not about data. The panel highlighted that GDPR is cutting through people’s awareness but more needs to be done to build public trust in AI and innovation. One panelist also highlighted that the current uneven regulatory environment, due to the implementation of e-privacy regulation and GDPR at different times, had caused issues for the advertising industry. 


Responsible AI: Lessons learned from pioneers in the trenches 

Katy Baxter, Architect of Ethical AI Practice at Salesforce, provided a brilliant keynote on embedding ethics as standard business practice. Katy spoke of leveraging existing business processes and creating digestible, role-specific content which an individual can relate back to their role today. She also highlighted the importance of a shared taxonomy, the need to create empowerment and agency at every level of the business and change incentive structures internally.  

During the panel discussion, Julie Dawson from Yoti explained the steps her company had taken to embed ethics into their age estimation scanner. Yoti has set up an internal ethics working group and is working with a diverse set of stakeholders, such as the charity Sparkle, to take account on intended consequences. Yoti’s white paper on its age estimate scanner can be found here


Bad data, dirty decisions 

During this thought-provoking session, Rashida Richardson from the AI Now Institute highlighted: 

  • A lack of political and institutional incentives for self-monitoring, auditing and reform. 

  • Reforms that do not require restrictions or prohibitions of the dirty data will not address problems discussed.  

  • Great need for an empowered and independent authority to assess and address dirty data in policing. 


If you’re interested in finding out more about the ethics debates taking place at CogX, please contact Katherine Mayes at techUK.    

  • Jake Wall

    Jake Wall

    Programme Assistant | Policy and Cloud, Data, Analytics & AI Programmes
    T 020 7331 2049
  • Katherine Mayes

    Katherine Mayes

    Programme Manager | Cloud, Data, Analytics and AI
    T 020 7331 2019

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