Data Driven Futures

Research reveals public mistrust of AI ethics

Written by Peter Walker

As organisations harness the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI), consumers and employees are watching closely and are ready to reward or punish behavior, according to the Capgemini Research Institute.

It surveyed 1,580 executives from large organisations across 10 countries, and over 4,400 consumers across six countries, finding that respondents would be more loyal to, purchase more from, or be an advocate for, organisations whose AI interactions are deemed ethical.

The research also suggested that companies using AI in an ethical way will be rewarded.

Among the consumers surveyed, 62 per cent said they would place higher trust in a company whose AI interactions they perceived as ethical, 61 per cent said they would share positive experiences with friends and family, 59 per cent said that they would have higher loyalty to the company, and 55 per cent said that they would purchase more products and provide positive feedback on social media.

In contrast, when consumers’ AI interactions result in ethical issues, it threatens both reputation and the bottom line: 41 per cent said they would complain in case an AI interaction resulted in ethical issues, 36 per cent would demand an explanation and 34 per cent would stop interacting with the company.

Meanwhile, executives in nine out of 10 organisations believe that ethical issues have resulted from the use of AI systems over the last two to three years, with examples such as collection of personal patient data without consent in healthcare, and over-reliance on machine-led decisions without disclosure in banking and insurance.

Executives cited reasons including the pressure to urgently implement AI, the failure to consider ethics when constructing AI systems, and a lack of resources dedicated to ethical AI systems.

All those surveyed were worried about the ethics related to AI and want some form of regulation.

Almost half of the respondents surveyed (47 per cent) believe they have experienced at least two types of uses of AI that resulted in ethical issues in the last two to three years, with three quarters said they want more transparency when a service is powered by AI, and just under three quarters (73 per cent) want to know if AI is treating them fairly. Over three quarters (76 per cent) of consumers think there should be further regulation on how companies use AI.

Organisations are starting to realise the importance of ethical AI, with 51 per cent of executives considering that it is important to ensure that AI systems are ethical and transparent. The research found that 41 per cent of senior executives report to have abandoned an AI system altogether when an ethical issue had been raised.

“Many organisations find themselves at a crossroads in their use of AI,” said Anne-Laure Thieullent, AI and analytics group offer leader at Capgemini. “Consumers, employees and citizens are increasingly open to interacting with the technology but are mindful of potential ethical implications.”

She suggested that for companies, this is not just a compliance issue, but one that can create a significant benefit in terms of loyalty, endorsement and engagement. “To achieve this, they need to focus on putting the right governance structures in place, they must not only define a code of conduct based on their own values, but also implement it as an ‘ethics-by-design’ approach, and, above all, focus on informing and empowering people in how they interact with AI solutions.”

Luciano Floridi, director of Digital Ethics Labs at the Oxford Internet Institute, explained that a classic way of gaining trust, with AI interactions in particular, can be summarised in three words: transparency, accountability, and empowerment.

“That means transparency so that people can see what you are doing; accountability because you take responsibility for what you are doing; and empowerment because you put people in charge to tell you if something you did was not right or not good.”