When your work directly impacts people and societies, ethics matters. This is how we ensure our projects are ethically sound.
At Faculty, we believe AI is a force for good. We are privileged to work on projects that benefit not just our customers, but wider society, and care deeply about our reputation for working with integrity.
You can see that in how we helped the NHS forecast covid admissions and save thousands of lives. You can see how we have helped improve the standards of online advertising. You can see how we have helped the London Fire Brigade target their inspections more efficiently. You can also see how we helped reduce train delays, or helped government combat terrorist propaganda online.
We are fortunate to support our customers in such impactful work and, as a result of our purpose-driven culture, we think carefully before deciding whether to undertake a project. As such, our leadership team – and indeed the whole company – are responsible for reflecting on and verifying the ethical basis of a project before we decide to take it on.
We do this by being very selective about our customers in the first place, applying our ethical principles to the project and – if necessary – by referring a potential project to our Ethics Panel. In addition to always acting with integrity and honesty, we apply our ethical principles to each project.
Our ethical principles are are:
- We don’t do projects that have the aim or effect of exploiting vulnerability. For example, we would not take on work to identify problem gamblers so they could be targeted by betting firms. We consider the direct effects of our work – so if something is a vulnerability, or if someone is vulnerable, we don’t exploit that.
- We respect the spirit as well as the letter of the law. This matters when it comes to data protection, but also issues like anti-bribery and corruption compliance.
- No Faculty staff should have to work on projects that make them uncomfortable. For example, if a vegan member of staff was not comfortable working on a project in the agricultural sector, they would be free to decline joining that project.
- We will never risk our scientific credibility. That means never taking on projects with scientifically dubious objectives.
- When working outside the UK, we apply a tiered approach to the work we consider. We review both the nature of the jurisdiction according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, and the identity of the customer. We are mindful of how democratic a country is, how strong the rule of law is, how free the press is, and other factors. If any project was outside of Western free democracies, this would be reviewed by our Ethics Panel. The criteria for accepting such work would be that it directly contributes to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.
- We don’t do political work. We have worked with political parties in the past, but have decided to support society and democracy in other ways, such as by helping the NHS, law enforcement and other public sector organisations.
- We pick our own teams. We will never allow clients to tell us who should be on our team based on anything other than experience or competence.
Our Ethics Panel
Our Ethics Panel was set up to support our teams in the consistent and fair application of our ethical principles. The panel consists of seven randomly appointed employees from across Faculty, including three senior and four more junior members of staff, and with panel membership renewed every six months.
The panel judges whether a project is aligned with the principles set out above, whether there is a possible conflict, or whether a project raises ethical issues not covered by our principles, but which should be.
Every project offer Faculty receives is tested against our ethical principles by our people before a contract is signed. It is a non-negotiable and an established part of our preparatory work.
This is an evolving process that we are continually reviewing, and there will always be more we can do to ensure all our work is as sound and ethical as possible.
But our governance practices should leave our customers and employees in no doubt that we hold these matters in high regard, have no wish to be involved in ethically questionable projects, and fundamentally believe our work should only be a force for good.