In-house lawyers at Paypal, Via Travel and OpenDoor said it's important for the legal department to work with engineers to avoid unconscious biases that may arise in artificial intelligence. 

In-house counsel should work with their engineers and executives to fully understand what data sets go into artificial intelligence systems to eliminate unconscious bias and drive better business results, in-house leaders familiar with the technology say.

Without large sets of diverse data the artificial intelligence will learn from a homogeneous data set and can never be inclusive, a group of general counsel said during a webinar hosted by Mayer Brown last week.

Louise Pentland, the chief business affairs and legal officer at PayPal in San Jose, California, said with the correct data, it can track a user’s traveling schedule to determine whether or not there is a fraud on an account. However, she said if companies are going to invest in the technology, there should be an upfront investment in eliminating unconscious bias.

“One of the things that we’ve been very focused on is building great diversity in our workforce so you’re not creating these inherent biases, which are hard to unravel once they’re in the machine learning,” Pentland said.

Even for companies like OpenDoor, a real estate technology company, housing data that feeds into those systems is important. Beth Stevens, the company’s head of legal in San Francisco, explained that her company can take data from the neighborhoods where it buys and sells houses to calculate selling prices.

“There is probably embedded systemic racism [in] the way that real estate has priced homes in the past and we think about that. We’re conscious about that when we’re pricing the house,” Stevens explained.

Artificial intelligence and pumping personal data into those systems will become more commonplace as more consumers go online, Erin Abrams, general counsel of Via Transportation Inc. in New York, said.

Via Transportation uses artificial intelligence to understand where people will want to travel and where Via Transportation can expand its business.

Abrams said her company is excited about artificial intelligence and its possibilities to expand. But they also spend a significant amount of time thinking about how to use it ethically.

“We think about adding that human layer that is preprogrammed into those systems and how we as humans can bring in an ethical overlay to those AI systems so they make decisions that reflect our values,” Abrams said.

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Reprinted with permission from the November 2, 2020 edition of Corporate Counsel © 2020 ALM Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.