Artificial Intelligence: After Gebru, Google Terminates Another AI Researcher

Both AI workers were highly critical of Google.

Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) terminated Margaret Mitchell, an AI researcher and a leader of its Ethical AI team, after a suspension that commenced last month. Dr. Mitchell said in a tweet on Friday afternoon: “I’m fired.” (The New York Times)

Mitchell’s dismissal by Google comes on the heels of another, controversial incident two months ago. AI researcher and Mitchell’s colleague, Timnit Gebru claimed the company had sacked her for her protests regarding its policy surrounding minority hiring and its handling of bias in AI developments.

Notably, Mitchell had been publicly vocal and critical of how Google treated Gebru and the circumstances surrounding her departure.

Google’s stand on Mitchell

Google confirmed to the NYT that it had terminated Mitchell’s services. In a statement to Axios, Google said: “After conducting a review of this manager’s conduct, we confirmed that there were multiple violations of our code of conduct, as well as of our security policies, which included the exfiltration of confidential business-sensitive documents and private data of other employees.”

Google locked Mitchell’s email and suspended her last month. It said it was investigating why she downloaded a large number of files and shared them with outsiders. According to reports, Mitchell had been using a script to search her email for Gebru-related material.

At the time, Google alleged: “Our security systems automatically lock an employee’s corporate account when they detect that the account is at risk of compromise due to credential problems or when an automated rule involving the handling of sensitive data has been triggered. In this instance, yesterday our systems detected that an account had exfiltrated thousands of files and shared them with multiple external accounts. We explained this to the employee earlier today.”

Google completes review of Gebru’s firing

However, according to CNET, Google completed an internal review of Gebru’s treatment. It pledged Friday to change its human resource and diversity policies. It further said it would link diversity goals to performance reviews of vice presidents and higher ranked.

Reportedly, Google involved outside counsel in the exercise.

Google also said it had appointed Marian Croak to supervise its mission to develop AI responsibly.

Moreover, Wired said it had seen a memo written by Jeff Dean, Google AI’s research boss, that admitted Gebru’s departure had led Googlers to question their future at the company.

“I understand we could have and should have handled this situation with more sensitivity,” he wrote. “For that, I am sorry.”

Related Story:   After Gebru, Google Has A Brush With Second AI Researcher                                                

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