Last week, Google announced the formation of Advanced Technology External Advisory Council, to help Google with the major issues in AI such as facial recognition and machine learning fairness. The group was announced by Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president of global affairs, and according to Kent, the council will provide diverse perspectives to Google.
Google appointed eight members for the council coming from diverse fields including, behavioural economy, privacy, applied mathematics, machine learning, industrial engineering, AI ethics, digital ethics, foreign policy, and public policy.
Now a group of Google employees on the selection of the council is insisting the company on the removal of, Kay Coles James, the Heritage Foundation President who promotes anti-trans and anti-immigrant thoughts. Her tweets are proof of her thoughts against the idea of LGBTQ. Heritage has even hosted a panel of anti-transgender activists, and the panel lobbied against LGBTQ discrimination protections that were proposed by congressional Democrats.
The #EqualityAct is anything but equality. This bill would shut down businesses and charities, politicize medicine, endanger parental rights, and open every female bathroom and sports team to biological males. Learn more here: https://t.co/eJPDvfJKEs
— Kay Coles James (@KayColesJames) March 21, 2019
Today @heritage will critique gender identity @UN_CSW because powerful nations are pressing for the radical redefining of sex. If they can change the definition of women to include men, they can erase efforts to empower women economically, socially, and politically. #CSW63
— Kay Coles James (@KayColesJames) March 20, 2019
Yesterday, a group of employees which was known as ‘Googlers Against Transphobia and Hate’ filed a petition. The petition reads, “In selecting James, Google is making clear that its version of ‘ethics’ values proximity to power over the wellbeing of trans people, other LGBTQ people, and immigrants. Such a position directly contravenes Google’s stated values.”
The petition is already been signed by more than 1k Google employees. The employees voiced their opinion in the petition, “By appointing James to the ATEAC, Google elevates and endorses her views, implying that hers is a valid perspective worthy of inclusion in its decision making, this is unacceptable.”
Few researchers and civil society activists have joined in the force against the idea of anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ. Alessandro Acquisti, a behavioral economist and privacy researcher, has declined an invitation to join the council.
I'd like to share that I've declined the invitation to the ATEAC council. While I'm devoted to research grappling with key ethical issues of fairness, rights & inclusion in AI, I don't believe this is the right forum for me to engage in this important work. I thank (1/2)
— alessandro acquisti (@ssnstudy) March 30, 2019
Google employees and researchers wrote that appointing James to the council “significantly undermines Google’s position on AI ethics and fairness” pointing out that there have been consistent civil rights concerns around some AI technology.
The petition further reads, “Not only are James’ views counter to Google’s stated values, but they are directly counter to the project of ensuring that the development and application of AI prioritizes justice over profit.”
According to a few people, James’ views are uncommon and they are taking a stand for her. Cal Smith, on Medium wrote, “Her views are not uncommon, and in fact are shared by a good percentage of Americans. If you are to have a truly representative AI that prioritizes non-discrimination then you must have a wide range of views included, including those you disagree with.”
It seems the petition by Google employees will definitely put some pressure over the company, considering that the intention is more about strengthening the Human Rights than anything else. But it is yet to be known what Google finally decides!
Check out the letter by the Google employees here.