Google says it is investigating an AI ethicist for sharing sensitive documents, amid bristling tensions between employees and leadership
Google has suspended the corporate account of Margaret Mitchell, a lead on its ethical AI team, claiming she downloaded and shared sensitive documents with external accounts.
A Google spokesperson confirmed late on Tuesday that Mitchell’s corporate access, including her work email, had been locked.
The news was first reported by Dr. Timnit Gebru, who previously co-led Google’s ethical AI division with Mitchell and left the company in December after she said she was fired.
“[Margaret’s] not fired **yet**. But apparently they’ve told her she will be locked out for at least a few days,” tweeted Gebru on Tuesday. A current employee, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not permitted to talk to the press, also told Business Insider that Mitchell had been reprimanded by management, but not fired.
A Google spokesperson confirmed Mitchell had been locked out of her corporate account and claimed it was because she had shared “thousands” of files with external accounts.
“Our security systems automatically lock an employee’s corporate account when they detect that the account is at risk of compromise due to credential problems or when an automated rule involving the handling of sensitive data has been triggered. In this instance, yesterday our systems detected that an account had exfiltrated thousands of files and shared them with multiple external accounts. We explained this to the employee earlier today,” they said.
“We are actively investigating this matter as part of standard procedures to gather additional details,” the spokesperson said.
Mitchell did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Mitchell has been vocal in criticizing Google over Gebru’s ousting and its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Google continues to contest it fired Gebru, and says it instead accepted her resignation, but the debacle has aggravated tensions between employees and top brass.
Last week, Mitchell said in a tweet that she was compiling a document of “critical issues” from [Gebru’s] firing, which would be shared with Jeff Dean and other Google leadership.
“I plan to share publicly everything me and @timnitGebru agree on. I believe it is the only way it will be taken seriously,” she said.