Tech Company Employees Express Concerns Over Law Enforcement AI

Anonymous survey app Blind asked members of the technology community their views about creating artificial intelligence (AI) programs for law enforcement, including possible ethical implications. While respondents were willing to create the technology, some expressed concerns about the ethics of its use.

Blind received 3,826 unique responses from employees of Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce, Cisco, IBM, and Apple over a seven-day period in mid-July.

Microsoft employees were the most amenable to creating software used by law enforcement with 58 percent of respondents saying “yes” when asked whether they would create such technology. Apple employees were the least amenable at 36 percent. Over half of employees at Amazon and Google were also willing to create the technology with Salesforce and Cisco coming in closely behind at 48 percent and 47 percent respectively. At IBM, 43 percent of employees were willing to create the technology.

However, when asked if employees were “concerned about the misuse of AI,” about 7 out of 10 employees working at Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Salesforce said “yes”.

The survey comes as employees at some companies protest the use of AI and facial recognition technology work with U.S. law enforcement and military services. Recently, Google canceled projects with the Department of Defense’s AI program Project Maven due to backlash from employees regarding potential battlefield lethality.

Microsoft employees have also protested a contract between the company and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Civil liberties groups have also expressed concerns about the misuse of AI within law enforcement. Earlier this year when the New York Police Department began using a pattern detecting technology program, the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concerns about its use due to the potential for the technology to replicate bias.

An NYPD spokesperson, however, told TechTarget that transparency and fair law enforcement policy should alleviate these concerns.

Spokesperson Devore Kaye noted, “Analytics will continue to play an increasingly important role in law enforcement to help ensure public safety. However, it's only one important component of good policymaking. Any effective and fair law enforcement policy should be transparent to the public, incorporate feedback from impacted stakeholders and be frequently evaluated for impact.”

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