A whistleblower in the White House, NASA’s all-female spacewalk cancellation, the ethics of artificial intelligence, and more.
Join the Convercent team for a weekly review of the top stories and most newsworthy events in the ethics and compliance industry. The focus is global, but you might be surprised by how relevant these stories are, both across borders and businesses.
Tricia Newbold, a manager in the White House’s Personnel Security Office, is the newest whistleblower in government. Newbold informed a House committee that senior officials in the Trump administration approved security clearances for at least 25 individuals whose applications had previously been denied for “disqualifying issues” that could put national security at risk.
The applicants are said to include two current senior White House officials, though specific individuals have not been named.
In another victory for the #MeToo movement, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has announced that it will ask members to change the organization’s bylaws to allow, “proven sexual harassers and those guilty of other misconduct to be ejected from their ranks.”
The NAS advises the United States government on scientific issues and several of its high-profile members have been found guilty of sexual harassment or misconduct. Marcia McNutt, NAS president, explained, “This vote is less about cleaning house and more about sending the message that the members of the National Academy of Sciences adhere to the highest standards of professional conduct and are serious about expecting that their colleagues abide by our code.”
On March 26, NASA announced the cancellation of the first all-female spacewalk. On social media, the blame was cast on gender discrimation, though the cancellation was a basic safety matter. The two women, Anne McClain and Christina Koch, both needed size medium space suits. Only one was available for the scheduled all-female spacewalking assignment.
Spacewalks are one of the most dangerous tasks astronauts complete and safety is an utmost priority. There are no immediate plans to reschedule, though NASA is aware of the significance attached to the all-female spacewalk.
As C&E professionals, we already know that artificial intelligence (AI) comes with a host of ethics-related questions. The latest quandary comes from Finland, where a tech startup is using prison labor for classifying data to train artificial intelligence algorithms. Vainu, the startup at the center, asserts the partnership helps prisoners develop valuable skills for an evolving economy.
Not all experts agree, however. According to Sarah T. Roberts, a professor of information science at the University of California at Los Angeles who studies information workers, if a university researcher tried to partner with prisons in a similar manner, “[it] would not pass an ethics review board for a study.”
These tough questions around the ethics of AI won’t fade any time soon. Luckily, you can get actionable guidance from a legal and compliance standpoint during an upcoming webinar: On the Brink of Digital Transformation: Opportunities For AI in C&E. Join your peers and thought leaders on Tuesday, April 23rd at 9am MDT.
While we’re on the topic of AI, go ahead and watch this video from Forbes Insights that explains how Convercent is helping corporations and businesses on their ethical journeys.
As our CEO Patrick Quinlan explains, powerful software tools are increasingly capable of using AI to help humans avoid “ethical fading,” even going so far as to predict when us humans need help the most.
Meng Hongwei, a former Interpol chief, will soon be prosecuted by Chinese officials. An investigation by the country’s anti-corruption watchdog unearthed evidence suggesting Meng spent “lavish” amounts of state funds, accepted bribes, abused his power, and refused to follow Communist Party decisions.
Because the courts are controlled by the party, experts expect Meng will be found guilty when his case eventually comes to trial, and the decision will not be challenged.
Mark Zuckerberg is now calling on governments and regulators to update the rules for the Internet. He believes we need new regulations in four key areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy, and data portability.
Zuckerberg explains his position, stating, “I believe Facebook has a responsibility to help address these issues, and I’m looking forward to discussing them with lawmakers around the world.” He also adds that “peopl shouldn’t have to rely on individual companies addressing these issues by themselves. We should have a broader debate about what we want as a society and how regulation can help.”
Last week, Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan made an immediate departure from his role. Sloan is the second CEO to resign from the scandal-ridden bank over the last two and a half years. Earlier in March he also testified before Congress, where he assured the House Financial Services Committee that “Wells Fargo is a better bank than it was three years ago, and we are working every day to become even better.”
Despite assurances, lawmakers from across the aisle remained skeptical. When Wells Fargo announced in a filing to a government regulator that Sloan would receive a $2 million bonus for 2018, California Democrat Maxine Waters, who runs the House Financial Services Committee, called for him to be “shown the door.”
Fifty women have filed a lawsuit against Salesforce in a San Francisco court, alleging the company facilitated “sex trafficking, negligence, and conspiracy” as the women were sexually exploited and trafficked through Backpage.com. Salesforce provided tools to Backpage, an online directory site that was seized by the FBI in 2018 amid intense scrutiny of its sex work listings.
The claimants assert that Salesforce offered a customized database “tailored for Backpage’s operations, both locally and internationally,” which allowed the site to “market to new ‘users’—that is, pimps, johns, and traffickers.”