Ethics is a fundamental part of being a professional accountant. Therefore, as accountants make growing use of new technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence, they need to think about the ethical implications of the technology, and whether they are managing any ethical risks appropriately.
Ethics is all about ‘doing the right thing’ and so when using new technologies, it’s important to start with thinking about any harm that they could cause. This could be through invasions of privacy, for example gathering more and more data about staff activities. It could be using biased data or algorithms to make decisions that are unfair or discriminatory. Or maybe it could be through using AI to optimise tax planning and push the boundaries of ethical conduct.
Doing a full assessment of the potential ethical risks, building on tools such as privacy impact assessments, can be a helpful way to structure thinking here and identify any mitigating actions. But strong leadership is also essential to building an ethical culture and setting the right tone, especially where ethical choices conflict with profit motives.
Most people don’t set out to do things that are unethical or harmful.