Former member of Google's disbanded AI ethics team leaves the company

Meredith Whittaker, a former member of Google's disbanded artificial intelligence ethics team who helped organize the November 2018 walkouts against the company's handling of sexual misconduct allegations, has left Google.

In a Medium post published July 16, Ms. Whittaker confirmed her departure, citing friction between her goal of creating ethical, accountable technology and the company's priorities. "It's clear Google isn't a place where I can continue this work," she wrote.

Since joining the company in 2006, she continued, "I have tried hard to offer evidence and pathways for positive structural change, but over time I realized that my presence 'at the table' was more about the appearance of an inclusive debate, rather than seriously contending with the problems in the company. In the meantime, the issues of AI, bias and inequity grew more urgent, and I became increasingly worried."

Ms. Whittaker noted that she will continue her work in AI ethics at New York University's AI Now Institute, which she co-founded. "The stakes are extremely high. The use of AI for social control and oppression is already emerging, even in the face of developers' best of intentions," she wrote. "We have a short window in which to act, to build in real guardrails for these systems, before AI is built into our infrastructure and it's too late."

In April, Ms. Whittaker co-authored an open letter to her fellow Google employees in which she claimed to be experiencing retaliation from the company for her part in the walkouts. That month, she wrote, Google disbanded its AI ethics council, requested that she discontinue her work in the field (including with AI Now) and informed her that her role "would be changed dramatically."

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