Ethics of AI: 10 Main Issues and Code Examples

Ethics of AI: 10 Main Issues and Code Examples
21 September, 2023 • ... • 1457 views
Ana Balashova
by Ana Balashova

In the bustling world of artificial intelligence, there’s a new topic of discussion: AI ethics. But what does it mean for someone like you? 

Picture this: You’ve just started using a shiny new AI tool to boost your business, but soon headlines are swirling about biases and misinformation coming from this product and all the companies using it, including yours. It’s a marketer’s nightmare, isn’t it?

Welcome to the urgent conversation around AI ethics, a topic that’s becoming impossible to ignore. In this article, we’ll examine the top 10 ethical issues and considerations every marketer should be aware of when diving into the AI-powered landscape.

What are AI ethics?

AI ethics refers to the moral compass guiding how we create and use artificial intelligence. It ensures that the smart algorithms we build work for the betterment of society and don’t inadvertently harm or mislead.

Key areas within AI ethics include:

  • Avoiding AI bias: Just like humans, AI can be biased, especially if it’s trained on skewed data. This bias can sideline minorities or underrepresented groups, leading to unfair outcomes. It’s essential to develop AI technologies that are inclusive and fair.
  • AI and privacy: With AI’s heavy reliance on data, especially in fields like social media and email marketing, there’s a growing concern about user privacy. How much do users know about the data being collected, and how is it being used?
  • Managing AI environmental impact: The technological change brought about by AI isn’t just digital. The energy consumption of massive AI models has raised environmental eyebrows. It’s a topic that demands global attention and responsible actions.
  • Accountability: With the rapid pace of technological change, who’s responsible when AI goes awry? The debate on accountability in the AI realm is crucial and ongoing.
  • Proper oversight mechanisms: Implementing human-in-the-loop and human-on-the-loop strategies can help in maintaining control over AI systems. These mechanisms involve human intervention to oversee AI operations, ensuring the systems function ethically and correctly.

AI is affecting everything from email marketing to content creation, and understanding its ethical dimensions has never been more important.

Why are AI ethics important?

AI isn’t a mere technological fad; it’s here to stay. According to IDC forecasts, the use of AI tools by businesses is expected to grow massively, with a steady increase of 27% each year from 2022 to 2026. By 2026, spending on AI-centric systems is anticipated to cross a whopping $300 billion, with banking, retail, and professional services leading the charge in AI usage.

Top spending in AI by industry, by IDC. Banking — 13.4%, retail — 12.8%, professional services — 10.4%.
Source: IDC Worldwide Artificial Intelligence Spending Guide, forecast for 2023

But why should your business come up with AI ethics rules and follow them?

  • Reputation and trust: Ethical missteps can tarnish a brand’s image. Imagine an email marketing tool inadvertently sending biased content. The repercussions can be severe, affecting customer trust and loyalty.
  • Legal and regulatory concerns: With AI’s mainstreaming, global governments are formulating regulations for its ethical deployment. Ignoring them can lead to legal complications and hefty penalties.
  • Genuine business value: Ethical AI can benefit your business. An AI tool that respects user privacy can be a unique selling proposition in today’s data-centric world.
  • Societal impact: AI’s potential societal impact is vast. Ethical considerations guide it towards inclusivity and fairness rather than division and bias.
  • Future-proofing: As AI tools become more prevalent, businesses prioritizing ethics will navigate future challenges and shifts with ease.

In essence, AI ethics isn’t a niche topic for computer science scholars. It’s a pressing concern that every marketer, business owner, and even the general public should be aware of. As AI continues to redefine industries, understanding its ethical dimensions ensures that it leads to the collective good.

10 main ethical issues of AI today

As we approach significant technological change, it’s essential to weigh the risks and rewards. A Pew Research study found that 79% of experts expressed concerns about the future of AI, touching on potential harms to human development, knowledge, and rights. Only 18% felt more excitement than concern. As AI continues to weave itself into the fabric of our daily lives, understanding its ethical dimensions becomes not just a computer science challenge but a societal one.

From chatbots helping us with our shopping lists to AI-driven marketing campaigns, the line between computer science marvel and ethical dilemma is getting blurrier. Let’s break down the ten main ethical issues of AI today, spiced up with real-life examples.

Bias and discrimination

Imagine an AI recruitment tool that’s been trained on decades of human decisions. Sounds great, right? But what if those human decisions were biased? 

This isn’t just a hypothetical scenario. The Berkeley Haas Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership revealed that out of 133 AI systems analyzed from 1988 to the present day, 44.2% exhibited gender bias, and a significant 25.7% showed both gender and racial bias.

This alarming trend has spurred action, with New York City setting a precedent in 2023. Employers in the city are now prohibited from using AI to screen candidates unless the technology has undergone a “bias audit” in the year preceding its usage. This move aims at fostering fairness and equality in the recruitment process.

Lack of transparency

AI systems, especially in marketing, often operate as “black boxes”, making decisions that even their creators can’t always explain. This lack of transparency can be unsettling. For instance, if an AI in email marketing decides to target a particular demographic without clear reasoning, it can lead to ethical concerns.

Invasion of privacy and misuse in surveillance

Your social media profiles might reveal more about you than you think. AI can mine vast amounts of personal data, sometimes without our knowledge or consent. A machine-learning algorithm might predict your intelligence and personality just from your tweets and Instagram posts. This data could be used to send you personalized ads or even decide if you get that dream job, shaping a future where our online actions dictate real-life opportunities. While this might sound like a plot from a sci-fi movie, it’s a reality today and it doesn’t seem to get better.

Big Brother is watching, and AI is his new tool. Governments and organizations can harness AI for mass surveillance, often breaching privacy rights. Imagine walking into a mall, and an AI system instantly recognizes you, accessing your entire digital footprint. It’s not just about privacy; it’s about the potential misuse of this information. Countering that, the EU Parliament passed the draft of an AI law banning the use of facial recognition technology in public spaces without clear regulations. 

Lack of accountability

When AI goes wrong, who’s to blame? Is it the developers, the users, or the machine itself? What if AI decisions lead to negative outcomes, like a healthcare misdiagnosis? Without clear accountability, it’s challenging to address these issues and ensure they don’t happen again.

Copyright questions

Another topic of debate surrounding AI is the use of protected works (illustrations, books, etc.) to train the systems and generate text and images. The AI and copyright questions are at the intersection of law, ethics, and philosophy, which makes them especially complicated to navigate. Still, it is an important matter to consider.

Economic and job displacement

Picture this: factories are humming with robots, not humans. Sounds efficient, right? But what happens to John, Jane, and thousands of others who used to work there? As AI gets smarter, many jobs, especially the repetitive ones, are on the chopping block. Automation in sectors like manufacturing is leading to significant job losses. So, while AI might be a boon for efficiency, it’s also a bane for employment in certain sectors.

Misinformation and manipulation

Ever stumbled upon a video of Tom Cruise goofing around, only to realize it was all smoke and mirrors? Welcome to the global phenomenon of deepfakes, where AI tools have the power to craft hyper-realistic videos of individuals saying or doing things they never actually did. This technology has opened up Pandora’s box, making it possible to generate misinformation at an unprecedented scale, not just through written words but through convincing visuals too.

In a startling case that shook the internet, two US lawyers and their firm were slapped with a $5,000 fine for leveraging ChatGPT to create and submit fake court citations. This AI tool went as far as inventing six non-existent legal cases, showcasing a dark side of AI where misinformation is a tangible reality affecting serious legal proceedings. 

Safety concerns

AI technology can sometimes remind a toddler — unpredictable and needing constant supervision. While it has the power to generate groundbreaking tools and solutions, it can also act in unforeseen ways if not properly managed. Consider the global buzz around autonomous vehicles. Can we fully trust AI to take the wheel in critical situations, or should there always be a human overseeing its actions to ensure safety?

Recall the tragic incident in Arizona during Uber’s self-driving experiment that led to fatal consequences for an innocent pedestrian. Similar concerns have been raised with Tesla’s autopilot feature. These incidents bring us to a pressing question in the business and technology world: How can we strike the right balance between leveraging AI’s potential and maintaining safety? It’s a discussion that goes beyond just holding someone accountable; it’s about safety measures and a culture where AI and human oversight work hand in hand to avoid possible mishaps.

Ethical treatment of AI

Here’s a brain teaser for you: if an AI can think, feel, and act like a human, should it be treated like one? It’s not just a philosophical question; it’s an ethical one. As AI systems evolve, there’s a growing debate over their rights. Are they just sophisticated tools or entities deserving of respect? While Google simply fired an engineer who was certain its AI had been sentient, questioning whether advanced AI systems should have rights is fair. 

Over-reliance on AI

Trust is good, but blind trust? Not so much. Relying solely on AI, especially in critical areas, can be a recipe for disaster. Imagine a world where AI is the sole decision-maker for medical diagnoses. Sounds efficient, but what if it’s wrong? Think of a GPT-3-based chatbot’s suggestions to commit suicide during a mock session. AI definitely needs human oversight.

To wrap it up, while AI is revolutionizing sectors like email marketing (shoutout to the chatGPT copywriting study!), it’s also opening a Pandora’s box of ethical issues. From job displacement to the rights of AI, the ethics of artificial intelligence is a hot topic that’s not cooling down anytime soon. So, as we embrace AI, let’s also ensure we’re navigating its ethical landscape with care. After all, it’s not just about what AI can do, but what it should do.

What is an AI code of ethics?

AI code of ethics is not the latest sci-fi novel. It’s a set of guidelines that companies and organizations use to ensure that their AI tools (yes, even those that might replace human copywriters someday) are used responsibly and ethically. Think of it as a rulebook for AI to play nice in the sandbox of new technologies.

Now, why should your company have one? Well, with the rapid technological change, it’s easy to get lost in the allure of what AI can do, forgetting to ask what it should do. An AI code of ethics helps bridge that gap, ensuring that while we chase after the next big thing in AI, we don’t compromise on human values.

Creating one isn’t just about jotting down some fancy words. It’s a process. And according to HBR, here’s how you can get started:

  1. Gather the stakeholders: First things first, identify who needs to be in the room. From techies to ethicists, get diverse minds on board.
  2. Set your standards: Clearly define what ethical AI means for your organization. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. Your company’s ethos and values play a crucial role here.
  3. Spot the gaps: Understand where you currently stand and what you need to achieve. It’s like mapping out a journey — you need to know your starting point.
  4. Get to the root: Dive deep into potential issues and find practical solutions.

And hey, if you’re looking for some inspiration, UNESCO set a global standard with their AI ethics framework in 2021. Their focus? Human rights and dignity. Now that’s a solid foundation to build upon!

Examples of AI codes of ethics

In this section, to help you further understand the subject, we’ll be diving deep into the AI codes of ethics from some big players — IBM, BCG, Bosch, and the European Commission. We’ll try to spot the differences and similarities. From grasping the basics to exploring the unique features, we are set for an exciting journey.

BCG (Boston Consulting Group)

BCG AI Code of Conduct cover page
Source: BCG AI Code of Conduct

Purpose: BCG’s AI Code of Conduct is designed to provide guidance on the responsible development and use of AI. It emphasizes that we should use AI to benefit humanity. In practice, this code helps BCG in advising clients on how they can integrate AI into their businesses ethically while benefiting from it. 

Key principles:

  • Human benefit: AI should be used for the benefit of all and should not harm humanity.
  • Fairness: AI should be unbiased and should not perpetuate existing biases.
  • Transparency: The workings of AI should be transparent and understandable.
  • Reliability: AI should be reliable and safe.
  • Privacy: AI should respect privacy and data protection rights.
  • Accountability: There should be clear accountability for AI’s decisions and actions.


Bosch AI code of ethics cover
Source: Bosch code of ethics for AI

Purpose: Bosch’s ethical guidelines for AI focus on ensuring that AI is used responsibly and that it respects human dignity. The company’s global partners, looking up to Bosch, have adopted these guidelines to foster AI technologies that prioritize human well-being and ethics.

Key principles:

  • Beneficence: AI should be used for the good of humanity.
  • Non-maleficence: AI should not harm humans.
  • Non-autonomy: Humans should always be in control of AI.
  • Justice: AI should be used fairly and should not discriminate.
  • Explicability: AI’s decisions should be transparent and explainable.


IBM AI ethics code cover page
Source: IBM Everyday Ethics for Artificial Intelligence

Purpose: IBM’s Everyday Ethics for Artificial Intelligence provides a set of guidelines for the ethical development and use of AI. It emphasizes the importance of trust and transparency in AI. Thousands of companies using IBM’s AI products naturally inherit those guidelines, making sure that utilizing AI stays both ethical and transparent, fostering trust within their clients.

Key principles:

  • Accountability: AI developers and users should be accountable for their AI systems.
  • Value alignment: AI should be aligned with human values and ethics.
  • Explainability: AI’s decisions should be understandable to humans.
  • User data rights: AI should respect user data rights and privacy.
  • Fairness and non-discrimination: AI should be unbiased and should not discriminate.
  • Transparency: AI’s workings should be transparent.
  • Social and environmental well-being: AI should be used in a way that benefits society and the environment.
  • Safety and security: AI should be safe and secure.

European Commission

European Commission Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence cover
Source: European Commission Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence

Purpose: The High-Level Expert Group on AI presented these guidelines to ensure the development of trustworthy artificial intelligence. The Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence were formulated after an open consultation that received more than 500 comments. These guidelines are utilized by AI developers globally to create AI systems that are ethical and reliable.

Key principles:

  • Lawfulness: AI should respect all applicable laws and regulations.
  • Ethical behavior: AI should respect ethical principles and values.
  • Human agency and oversight: AI should empower humans, allowing them to make informed decisions. Proper oversight mechanisms, such as human-in-the-loop and human-on-the-loop, should be in place.
  • Technical robustness and safety: AI should be resilient, secure, safe, accurate, reliable, and reproducible.
  • Privacy and data governance: AI should respect privacy and data protection rights. It should also ensure data quality, integrity, and legitimate access.
  • Transparency: AI systems and their decisions should be transparent. Humans should be aware of their interactions with AI and understand its capabilities and limitations.
  • Diversity, non-discrimination, and fairness: AI should avoid biases and foster diversity. It should be accessible to all and involve stakeholders throughout its lifecycle.
  • Societal and environmental well-being: AI should benefit all humans and consider its environmental impact. It should be sustainable and environmentally friendly.
  • Accountability: AI should have mechanisms for responsibility and accountability. This includes the ability to check and easily address any issues.

Comparing all four

While all four entities emphasize the importance of transparency, fairness, and benefit to humanity, there are nuances in their approaches:

  • The European Commission’s guidelines emphasize the importance of lawfulness, which is unique compared to the other three companies. This means AI should not only be ethical but also adhere to all applicable laws and regulations.
  • BCG and IBM both highlight the importance of accountability, but IBM goes a step further by discussing the alignment of AI with human values.
  • Bosch places a strong emphasis on human control over AI, emphasizing human autonomy. The European Commission highlights the importance of human agency, ensuring that AI systems empower people and have proper oversight mechanisms.
  • IBM’s guidelines are more comprehensive, touching on aspects like social and environmental well-being, which are not explicitly mentioned in the other three codes.
  • While all four entities (BCG, Bosch, IBM, and the European Commission) emphasize transparency, the European Commission further elaborates that humans need to be aware of their interactions with AI.

To summarize, while there are common themes across the four codes of ethics, each one has its unique emphasis and approach to ensuring the ethical use of AI.

For those looking to delve deeper into academic perspectives, Salesforce’s curated list of ethics in AI research papers, updated regularly, offers a treasure trove of insights.

Moreover, organizations like AlgorithmWatch, AI Now Institute, DARPA, CHAI, and NASCAI have become pioneers in promoting ethical conduct in AI. Their resources and guidelines are invaluable for anyone keen on understanding and implementing AI ethics. 

Remember, in the world of AI, it’s not just about riding the wave of new technologies and social media. With a solid AI code of ethics, we can ensure that the future of AI is not just smart but also kind.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, navigating the intricate landscape of AI ethics hasn’t been boring. As we’ve delved into the challenges and ethical considerations, here are a few key takeaways:

  1. The AI conundrum: While AI may transform many sectors, including email marketing, it’s essential to use this tool responsibly. The burning question on many minds: will AI tools replace human copywriters? It’s not just about replacement, but how we can integrate them ethically.
  2. The imperative of human oversight: AI, for all its brilliance, requires human guidance. Whether it’s refining an AI-driven email campaign or ensuring fairness in decision-making, human intervention remains paramount.
  3. Setting ethical boundaries: Establishing a robust AI code of ethics isn’t just good practice; it’s a necessity. It serves as a compass, ensuring businesses navigate the AI realm with integrity and respect for human values.
  4. Staying ahead of the curve: The AI landscape is dynamic. For marketers, especially those leveraging new technologies in marketing, it’s crucial to stay informed and adapt.

To wrap it up, the journey into AI ethics underscores the balance between AI’s potential and ethical standards. As AI becomes a bigger part of everyone’s life and your business in particular, its ethical use will not only earn people’s trust but also spark more creative and fresh ideas.

21 September, 2023
Article by
Ana Balashova
I'm a seasoned PR and marketing pro turned tech writer, with a decade of experience working with big names like DuPont, Avon, Evernote, TradingView, and SAP. I've also dived into the world of crypto startups, contributing to several blockchain publications. Now, I'm bringing my passion for technology, entrepreneurship, and marketing to Selzy. Here, I combine my love for writing and excitement about contributing to the growth of a great product.
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