Ex-OpenAI employees demand greater protection for whistleblowers

In the open letter titled ‘A Right to Warn about Advanced Artificial Intelligence,’ former and current OpenAI employees criticised a lack of protection for whistleblowers in tech

Published - June 05, 2024 11:02 am IST

In the letter, the signees called on AI companies to encourage a culture of open criticism and non-retaliation [File]

In the letter, the signees called on AI companies to encourage a culture of open criticism and non-retaliation [File] | Photo Credit: AP

A group of current and former company employees have signed an open letter demanding that “frontier AI companies commit” to principles in order to better safeguard whistleblowers in the industry, or those raising valid concerns about the safety of AI technology.

The letter titled ‘A Right to Warn about Advanced Artificial Intelligence’ was signed by former Google DeepMind employee Ramana Kumar and current employee Neel Nanda, as well as former OpenAI employees Jacob Hilton, Daniel Kokotajlo, William Saunders, Carroll Wainwright, and Daniel Ziegler, while other current and former OpenAI employees remained anonymous.

In the letter, the signees called on AI companies to encourage a culture of open criticism and non-retaliation at their workplaces, so that safety risks could be responsibly called out.

The letter’s signees also criticised a lack of support and adequate safeguards for AI whistleblowers due relatively less regulation in the emerging space.

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“Ordinary whistleblower protections are insufficient because they focus on illegal activity, whereas many of the risks we are concerned about are not yet regulated. Some of us reasonably fear various forms of retaliation, given the history of such cases across the industry. We are not the first to encounter or speak about these issues,” stated the open letter.

The letter highlighted a need for companies to remove contract clauses that penalised “disparagement” of the company and the hindering of vested economic benefit due to employees’ concerns, in what was a clear reference to OpenAI’s former practice.

The letter was also endorsed by AI scientists Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton, and Stuart Russell.

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