Deloitte: Majority of Emerging Tech Designers and Users Lack Ethical Guidelines

Deloitte’s recent study on trust and ethics in technology has revealed that 90% of those surveyed do not have an ethics framework to guide their development and use of emerging technologies.

The new study, “State of Ethics and Trust in Technology,” is to be conducted on an annual basis by the firm’s Technology Trust Ethics practice, part of its U.S. Purpose Office. The practice focuses on building ethical decision-making into technology development to build trust and expand equitable opportunities for the underrepresented. Nearly 1,800 business professionals were surveyed to assess if and how ethical standards are being applied to emerging tech such as quantum computing, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), autonomous vehicles, artificial technology, and distributed ledger technology.

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Deloitte’s survey asked respondents to share their views on which emerging technologies presented both the most potential for social good as well as social harm. Respondents ranked seven principles for ethical technology according to their relative importance in their organizations and to themselves as individual contributors. Security/safety was ranked as the most important factor, followed by both organizational and individual privacy.

Technologies rated as having the greatest ethical risk were cognitive technologies such as AI (41%), digital reality (16%), and distributed ledger technology (13%). New technologies rated as having the greatest potential for social good were also cognitive technologies (33%), AR/VR (14%), and autonomous vehicles (11%).

Less than half of those surveyed stated that their organizations partner with other commercial organizations to review the ethical considerations of emerging technology, with less than a quarter partnering with governmental organizations to do the same.

While nearly two thirds stated that they shared leading practices to identify potential ethical issues across the organization, more than half of respondents said they believed that government should play a greater role in setting ethics standards for emerging technology.

“Organizations that ignore or downplay the ethical issues associated with developing and using emerging technologies risk multiple forms of legal, reputational, and organizational damage that can erode profitability and trust," said Beena Ammanath, managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLP, U.S. leader of Deloitte's technology trust ethics practice, and a co-author of the report. "However, collaboration across business leadership and beyond demonstrates the high potential for creating such a framework and utilizing these technologies for societal good."