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Why it is so Difficult Implementing Ethics in Tech Companies?

Every week the world experiences a new story about the dilemmas in implementing data ethics within the tech industry. It´s becoming a hot topic, and many tech companies have acknowledged that the term data ethics is a parameter in business that has come to stay. But it is difficult implemeting ethics.

A new role, ethics owner has emerged in order for ethics to be implemented into daily actions, practices and processes within tech companies, according to the Harvard Business Review, HBR, who also states that it is not without difficulties trying to implement ethical standards, and at the same time serve the bottom line as expected from management and board members.

“We learned that people in these new roles encounter an important set of tensions that are fundamentally not resolvable. Ethical issues are never solved, they are navigated and negotiated as part of the work of ethics owners,” HBR concludes.

The Dilemmas

The view upon ethics are different, if you are the designer, technical staff or the ethics owner. Technical staff, for example, might not find it so easy to “be sitting in a room and “thinking hard” about the potential harms of a product in the real world is not the same as thoroughly understanding how someone (whose life is very different than a software engineers’) might be affected by things like predictive policing or facial recognition technology, as obvious examples,” as HBR states.

A dilemma is how to implement the ethics standard. We rely on the technician’s interpretation of ethics as a term, which the authors states require a deep understanding of every contextual setting.

Another dilemma is, that not all companies will choose ethics as a social good over profit. Those working within tech need to see the value of considering ethics into developing AI. There is a need to see the reasons for testing how the making AI take ethical standards into consideration. This in order to promote the way, we work and think, and not due legal questions. But the dilemma is, that testing for ethical issues doesn´t necessary lead to better sales numbers.

The ethics owners do not wish to stop the tech industry in progressing. But the article states that right now the moral victories can look like punishment and ethically questionable products earn big bonusses.

Get the full story in Harvard Business Review

See the data ethics principles developed by here