Amid a seemingly endless stream of allegations of various forms of industry misconduct, tech companies have begun looking to ethics officers as a way to improve business practices. The position of Chief Ethics Officers is not a new idea – there are individuals who hold that title in tech and other industries – but for the most part, these individuals have focused primarily on legal compliance. “There is a difference,” says County House Research compliance expert, Kym Kurey. “While compliance officers have been a part of the corporate culture for years, professionals focused on ensuring ethics within a company’s policies, procedures, technological advancements, and culture have come to the forefront. It’s not just about following the rules or risk mitigation anymore, especially within our regulated industries,” she comments.
The ethical considerations of rapidly advancing tech fields, especially AI (artificial intelligence), have been especially worrying to industry watchers and industry insiders alike. The potential power of these technologies to radically alter the very nature of human society, for good and for ill, has led to calls for oversight that goes beyond legal regulations alone. Writing in Forbes earlier this year, leadership expert Dan Pontefract, described Google Assistant’s ability to converse like a human as both “both compelling and terrifying.” Pointing to medicine for potential models of ethics self-regulation, Pontefract asks “If Silicon Valley has turned itself into one massive case study of groupthink—swimming in sinkholes of cognitive biases—who is standing up for those of us in society that may not want such advancements? Who becomes the judge of society’s ethics?”
Of course, ethical considerations extend to all industries. As Kurey notes, “the latest innovations may be legal or compliant, but are they truly the best option for the staff, clients and/or business itself? Having a professional solely focussed on ethics can ensure integrity, compassion, consistency, and user confidence in hiring and in the services you offer.”