Accountability in 2020.

After many trust-sapping incidents over the past few years, technology companies have been slow to respond. This year, we’re seeing signs of change —some voluntary, some forced as regulators take action.

Though COVID-19 will dominate news cycles for the foreseeable future, don’t forget that 2020 is a US election year. President Trump has called big tech companies “very antitrust,” while his challenger Joe Biden has said that breaking up these companies is “something we should take a really hard look at.”

As startup leaders, you can take a different path than the tech giants. By engaging with regulators early, companies like yours can ensure that better guidelines are established earlier for new technologies.

Accountability defined:

Take a proactive, strategic approach to trust, based on market needs. Drive accountability to ensure your initiatives are accomplished.

Key Trends in Accountability in 2020

ACCOUNTABILITY: TREND 1

Calls for Big Tech Regulation

A growing chorus of businesses, lawmakers and regulators are now calling for big tech companies to be broken up, while tech executives, like Mark Zuckerberg, are asking for government regulation.

In particular, tech companies are asking for more oversight in the areas of harmful content regulation, election integrity, privacy, data portability and the use of AI engines across sectors.

Georgian Impact Podcast

Episode 100: Algorithms as Managers at Uber with Alex Rosenblat

"What's happening is that technology culture has enjoyed wide exculpatory qualities so that when it does something, even if it looks like X, it gets narrated and widely accepted as Y. … It’s not merely a Wild West of technology anymore political times are changing, and technology companies are being recognized for all of the power that they have; they're not neutral anymore.”

Our Prediction

AI Regulations for Health & Safety

While privacy and data security laws are well into a global rollout, regulators will begin to focus on applications of AI that could threaten health and safety, particularly in the automotive sector.

Best-in-Class Responses

Proactively work with regulators.

Microsoft's Brad Smith: We Need More Tech Regulation

Define and follow a code of ethics for new technologies.

Everyday Ethics for Artificial Intelligence (Download)

WHAT TO DO

  • Stay on top of big tech missteps to take advantage of new opportunities to differentiate on trust.
  • Look for opportunities to provide a service that addresses the failings of incumbents.
  • Build out scenarios of how the company would react, perform and adapt under different regulatory constraints.

ACCOUNTABILITY: TREND 2

More Chief Information Security Officers

A single, serious breach can derail your growth — thanks to the impact on your brand and the cost to remediate. That’s why more and more growth-stage companies are hiring Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs).

Our Prediction

Compliance Drives Accountability Structures

The global expansion of privacy and data security laws will pressure boards to ensure businesses have units dedicated to compliance with local and national legislation. Any business that manages sensitive stakeholder data will need to build this new key competency into their operations.

WHAT TO DO

  • Understand if you need someone in charge of privacy and security at your company. Would you like to lead in trust or just be in compliance?
  • Consider your options: Do you need a full-time employee, or would a CISO-for-hire suffice?
  • Ensure your CISO has a sponsor with influence at your company.

ACCOUNTABILITY: TREND 3

Calls for Big Tech Regulation

A growing chorus of businesses, lawmakers and regulators are now calling for big tech companies to be broken up, while tech executives, like Mark Zuckerberg, are asking for government regulation.

In particular, tech companies are asking for more oversight in the areas of harmful content regulation, election integrity, privacy, data portability and the use of AI engines across sectors.

Georgian Impact Podcast

Episode 99: Should You Be Worried About Your AI Liability with Carole PIovesan

“Any way that we can promote responsible use of artificial intelligence and the responsible creation of AI systems is really important because it puts the responsibility on the originator to be mindful of what he or she is creating. You can come up with the best idea in the world ... but you need to think through the positive use cases and the negative use cases.”

Our Prediction

AI Regulations for Health & Safety

While privacy and data security laws are well into a global rollout, regulators will begin to focus on applications of AI that could threaten health and safety, particularly in the automotive sector.

Best-in-Class Responses

Proactively work with regulators.

Microsoft's Brad Smith: We Need More Tech Regulation

Define and follow a code of ethics for new technologies.

Everyday Ethics for Artificial Intelligence (Download)

WHAT TO DO

  • Stay on top of big tech missteps to take advantage of new opportunities to differentiate on trust.
  • Look for opportunities to provide a service that addresses the failings of incumbents.
  • Build out scenarios of how the company would react, perform and adapt under different regulatory constraints.

ACCOUNTABILITY: TREND 4

Fostering Work-from-home Accountability

Tracking the play-by-play of an employee’s day may be necessary for some quota-driven roles but violates employee trust. Finding the right balance for accountability is essential.

Georgian Impact Podcast

Episode 117: Leading From Home with Ben Wilde

“I make sure that I'm starting from a position of trust with my staff, and giving them the responsibility and authority to, with my support, figure out what the role needs to be and then really take ownership over it — and that then helps them stay motivated and stay focused."

Our Prediction

WFH Experiment Becomes Permanent

Many more businesses will follow the lead of Twitter, Shopify and others, making the “WFH experiment” permanent. Companies will adopt new types of office spaces acting as physical town-hall and training hubs. As companies shift to predominantly remote workforces, managers will be forced to rethink how they measure the success of their teams, switching to outcome-based management and objectives.

WHAT TO DO

  • Be clear with your team about how to use different communication methods and the pros and cons of each.
  • Promote team bonding and develop strong team dynamics.
  • Be flexible — your team is under a different set of pressures.
  • Set clear expectations and then manage based on outcomes rather than constantly tracking productivity.

Accountability: Key Takeaways

Start by understanding what your organization stands for, and take responsibility for the current and future impact that your products and policies may have on all stakeholders. This mindset is key to addressing all subsequent pillars in good faith.

Businesses have the opportunity to differentiate on accountability by taking responsibility for the impact their products and policies have on their customers, employees and the communities where they operate. In summary, tech leaders should consider these important points in 2020:

  • 1 While privacy and data security laws are well into a global rollout, regulators will begin to focus on applications of AI that could threaten health and safety, particularly in the automotive sector.a
  • 2 The global expansion of privacy and data security laws will pressure boards to ensure businesses have units dedicated to compliance with local and national legislation. Any business that manages sensitive stakeholder data will need to build this new key competency into their operations.
  • 3 AI- and ML-driven products will receive increased scrutiny — from regulators and the public — when it comes to the potential negative impact of an increased reliance on automated predictions in decision-making.
  • 4 Many more businesses will follow the lead of Twitter, Shopify and others, making the “WFH experiment” permanent. As companies shift to predominantly remote work forces, managers will be forced to rethink how they measure the success of their teams, switching to outcome-based management and objectives.

Accountability Checklist

CALLS FOR BIG TECH REGULATION

  • Stay on top of big tech missteps to take advantage of new opportunities to differentiate on trust.
  • Look for opportunities to provide a service that addresses the failings of incumbents.
  • Build out scenarios of how the company would react, perform and adapt under different regulatory constraints.

More Chief Information Security Officers

  • Understand if you need someone in charge of privacy and security at your company. Would you like to lead in trust or just be in compliance?
  • Consider your options: Do you need a full-time employee, or would a CISO-for-hire suffice?
  • Ensure your CISO has a sponsor with influence at your company.

AI Predictions, Human Judgment and Responsibility

  • Assess the social, economic and environmental systems your ML- or AI-driven products may impact to identify potential negative edge case outcomes.
  • Create guardrails by staffing all AI projects with individuals who are responsible for ensuring the team considers these edge cases.
  • Ensure that it’s clear who is accountable for the use of predictions generated by AI models and the decisions that result from their recommendations.

Fostering Work-from-home Accountability

  • Be clear with your team about how to use different communication methods and the pros and cons of each.
  • Promote team bonding and develop strong team dynamics.
  • Be flexible — your team is under a different set of pressures.
  • Set clear expectations and then manage based on outcomes rather than constantly tracking productivity.

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This post is part of our 2020 State of Trust Report. If you don't see a menu on the left of your screen, dive into the rest of the report here.