She’ll be fighting the good fight, likely against Google.
What you need to know
- A former Google employee is moving to a new role at the FTC.
- Meredith Whittaker will serve as senior advisor on AI for the FTC, working alongside Lina Khan.
- Whittaker has been an outspoken critic of Google’s practices since exiting the company.
The FTC has another weapon in its arsenal in the fight against Google and other Big Tech companies. Former Google employee, Meredith Whittaker, has announced that she will be joining the FTC as the senior advisor on AI.
Whittaker worked at Google for 13 years as an AI researcher before leaving the company in 2019 after it became clear that the company did not align with her AI ethics work.
As noted by The Information, her exit also followed protests she helped lead in 2018 over Google’s handling of sexual harassment accusations, and she was openly against the company’s contracts with the Department of Defense. For this, she reportedly faced retaliation from Google for speaking out against the company.
Upon her exit, she recognized Google as “a global leader in AI” that holds “significant and largely unchecked power,” while also calling out the AI field for being predominantly white and male.
Whittaker co-founded and is the faculty director of AI Now, a university institute that focuses on researching the social implications of AI. Her work in AI and experience with Google will no doubt play a key role in helping the FTC reign in companies and their use of AI around the world and in products such as the best smart speakers.
Notably, she will be working with Lina Khan, who is known for targeting the likes of Google and Amazon for their practices. In September, Khan outlined the goals of the agency under her leadership, highlighting the need to address power asymmetries and how they affect marginalized communities.
Thrilled to confirm the rumors: I will be joining @FTC as a Senior Advisor on AI. I’m humbled and beyond excited to get to work with + learn from @linakhanFTC and her brilliant team.
— Meredith Whittaker (@mer__edith) November 3, 2021
Google doesn’t have the best history with its AI researchers, particularly concerning the ethics of AI. The company was involved in a very public tussle with well-respected AI Ethics lead Timnit Gebru after her paper criticized the company for its use of AI. The ordeal reportedly brought about much internal turmoil, with several employees departing afterward.
While no longer employed with Google, Whittaker is now in what may be the best position to hold the search giant accountable for its technology, along with other Big Tech companies working to advance AI.