AI, data breaches top ethical challenges of 2023


Cybersecurity, the increasing use of AI and the cost of living are the top ethical challenges of 2023 according to the Governance Institute’s nationwide ethics survey with nearly three quarters of respondents saying there’s an urgent obligation for customers to be notified at all data breaches.


The Governance Institute of Australia’s Ethics Index 2023 reveals the importance of ethics in society has risen to an all-time high. Driven in large part by millennials and Gen X the importance placed on ethics has shot up to 84, up from 79 last year.

The overall Ethics Index Score has returned to the 2021 figure of 45, having taken a tumble last year.

The most comprehensive study of its kind, the nationwide survey reveals the most and least ethical occupations, organisations and sectors, plus checks the nation’s perceptions of current ethical dilemmas and difficult questions.

Now in its eighth year, Ethics Index 2023 found that politicians at all levels of government have seen a significant boost in the public’s perception of their ethical behaviour. Despite this, politicians remain at the lower end of the spectrum in the bottom five occupations.

The most ethical occupations were fire services (75) followed by ambulance services (74) and pharmacists (73).

Governance Institute CEO Megan Motto said while the Index score has remained largely steady, the increase in importance placed on ethics shows expectations aren’t being met.

‘The Ethical Expectation Deficit - which is the gap between the value we place on ethical behaviour and the perception - is growing wider,’ Ms Motto said.

‘This indicates that there’s still plenty of work to do by organisations and individuals, both in the public and private spheres to ensure good, ethical conduct and a positive culture remain top of the agenda.’

The rising cost of living, cybersecurity breaches and the increasing use of AI are seen as the top ethical challenges of 2023 while a First Nations Voice to Parliament is seen as ‘somewhat ethical’ overall.  

“Concerns around the use of generative AI and data breaches are clearly playing on the minds of the public, with an overwhelming majority feeling there is an urgent ethical obligation for companies to notify customers of all data breaches – not just serious ones,” Ms Motto said. 

Key findings

  • Importance of ethics reaches all-time index high (84)
  • 73% respondents say there’s an urgent ethical obligation for customers to be notified at all data breaches
  • The maintaining of Stage 3 tax cuts while only delivering a modest increase to the JobSeeker allowance is perceived as somewhat unethical (-27) but breaking an election promise is seen as more unethical (-34)
  • Health is rated as the most ethical sector (66) but GPs who don’t bulk-bill are seen as somewhat unethical (-26)
  • Most ethical occupation: Fire Services (82) followed by Ambulance services (80) and pharmacists (73)
  • Least ethical occupation: Real Estate agents (-19)
  • Media is the least ethical sector (-9) with Twitter (X), TikTok and Facebook all rated as somewhat unethical.
Download the Ethics Index 2023 HERE.
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