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BCS calls for register and code of conduct for AI technologists


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Rashik Parmar
Rashik Parmar
Image source: BCS

BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, has said that every technologist working in a high stakes AI role in the UK should be licensed as meeting independent ethical standards.

It said a public register of IT professionals held to an ethical code of conduct would reduce the risk of a ‘AI version’ of the Post Office scandal.

A new report from its ethics specialist group has also called for the creation of safe whistleblowing channels to call out unethical management.

This comes in the aftermath of the long running affair in which Post Office took a large number of sub-postmasters to court for fraud – leading to prison sentences for some – while senior officials know of severe problems with the IT accounting system.

According to the report, around 19% of IT professionals faced in ethical challenge in their work in 2023.

Accountability and policies

BCS said that CEOs and directors making decisions on the resourcing and use of AI should share in the accountability, and that large organisations should publish their policies on the ethical use of technology.

Recommendations of the report include that: every technologist in a high stakes AI role should be registered; government, industry and professional bodies should help to develop independent standards of ethical practice; AI professionals should have clear routes for whistleblowing if they feel they are asked to act unethically with AI; and the UK Government should take a lead in helping organisations to set the standards.

Chief executive of BCS Rashik Parmar said: “We have a register of doctors who can be struck off. AI professionals already have a big role in our life chances, so why shouldn’t they be licenced and registered too?

“CEOs and leadership teams who are often non-technical but still making big decisions about tech, also need to be held accountable for using AI ethically. If this isn’t happening, the technologists need to have confidence in the whistleblowing channels available within organisations to call them out; for example, if they are asked to use AI in ways that discriminate against a minority group.

“This is even more important in the wake of the Post Office Horizon IT scandal where computer generated evidence was used by non-IT specialists to prosecute sub postmasters with tragic results. 

“By setting high standards, the UK can lead the way in responsible computing, and be an example for the world. Many people are wrongly convinced that AI will turn out like The Terminator rather than being a trusted guide and friend – so we need to build public confidence in its incredible potential.”


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