Google dissolves its Advanced Technology External Advisory Council in a week after repeat criticism on selection of members

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Last week Google announced the formation of Advanced Technology External Advisory Council, to help the company with the major issues in AI such as facial recognition and machine learning fairness. And it is only a week later that Google has decided to dissolve the council, according to reports by Vox.

In a statement to Vox, a Google spokesperson said that “the company has decided to dissolve the panel, called the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC), entirely.”

The company further added, “It’s become clear that in the current environment, ATEAC can’t function as we wanted. So we’re ending the council and going back to the drawing board. We’ll continue to be responsible in our work on the important issues that AI raises, and will find different ways of getting outside opinions on these topics.”

This news comes immediately after a group of Google employees criticized the selection of the council and insisted the company to remove Kay Coles James, the Heritage Foundation President for her anti-trans and anti-immigrant thoughts.

The presence of James in the council had somewhere made the others uncomfortable too. When Joanna Bryson was asked by one of the users on Twitter, if she was comfortable serving on a board with James, she answered, “Believe it or not, I know worse about one of the other people.”

Few researchers and civil society activists had also voiced their opinion against the idea of anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ.  Alessandro Acquisti, a behavioural economist and privacy researcher, had declined an invitation to join the council.

Googlers also insisted on removing Dyan Gibbens, the CEO of Trumbull Unmanned, a drone technology company, from the board. She has previously worked on drones for the US military. Last year, Google employees were agitated about the fact that the company had been working with the US military on drone technology as part of so-called Project Maven. A lot of employees decided to resign because of this reason, though later promised to not renew Maven.

While talking more on the ethics front, Google has even offered resources to the US Department of Defense for a “pilot project” to analyze drone footage with the help of artificial intelligence. The question that arises here, “Are Googlers and Google’s shareholders comfortable with the idea of getting their software used by the US military?” President Donald Trump’s meet with the Google CEO, Sundar Pichai adds more to it.

Though this move by Google seems to be a mark of victory for more than 2300 Googlers and supporters who signed the petition and took a stand against Transphobia, it is still going to be a tough time for Google to redefine its AI ethics. Also, the company might have saved itself from this major turmoil if they had wisely selected the council members.

To know more about this news, check out the blog post by Vox.

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