New technology must earn trust and transform life for the better

Harnessing the power of tech to connect for good.

Two women looking at a mobile phone

BT touches the lives of nearly every person in the UK in some way – and thousands more around the world. That’s why it’s important that we make the most of the opportunities that new technologies bring. That could be supporting healthcare, security or the shift to a low carbon economy.

Successful adoption of new tech depends on public trust in both the technology and the organisations developing and deploying it. 

Woman sitting on a floor working on a laptop with a cat

We aim to build and maintain that trust by:

  • putting people and purpose at the heart of our products and solutions
  • listening to our customers’ hopes and fears
  • making sure we embed ethics and human rights into the way we design and market our products.
Woman and girl pointing to a computer screen

Guided by our responsible tech principles, we’ve committed to consistently develop, use, buy and sell tech in a way that benefits people and minimises harms. This links closely to the BT Group ambition to be the most trusted connector of people, devices and machines in the world.

To make this happen, we need talented people from all walks of life who understand cutting edge tech. That’s why we’re investing to supercharge a digital talent movement that will build the skills and diverse talent that BT and the UK need for the future. 

Developing AI responsibly

In a world of billions of devices and possible connections – both positive and negative – connecting for good has never been more important. The role of AI in this increasingly digital world has led to one of the biggest debates we’ve had. Take diversity, for example. Because AI is data-led, there’s a risk that bias will automatically be built into AI solutions if you don’t ensure diversity in the data up front. Often with rapidly evolving tech, like AI, there are not yet set rules. That’s why we’re taking the lead in applying new technologies in a way that strives to be fair to everyone – to connect for good.

Ed Petter BT Group Corporate Affairs Director (executive sponsor, responsible tech and human rights)

Applying responsible tech principles across the value chain

Our responsible tech principles help us think carefully about how to benefit people and minimise harms – every time we develop, use, buy and sell tech. 

Our responsible tech principles

For Good

We design and deliver tech to empower people and improve their lives.

Our tech principles - Accountable
Our tech principles - Accountable

Accountable

We are accountable for our actions and take care to avoid, and protect against, tech misuse.

Our tech principles - Fair
Our tech principles - Fair

Fair

We work hard to ensure everyone is treated fairly and with respect.

Our tech principles - Open
Our tech principles - Open

Open

We listen, collaborate and are transparent about our actions.

We follow the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. These principles form the basis of our Human Rights Policy Commitment and part of our new business risk management framework.

Our updated Being trusted: our code is mandatory training for all colleagues and spells out our commitments on responsible tech and human rights.

And we encourage anyone with concerns about human rights in our operations to contact our Speak Up helpline.

Putting our principles into practice when we…

  • We apply our principles right from the start when we design new tech.

    Our data ethics team and responsible tech steering group lead our thinking as we work to systematically build ethical decision-making into product design processes. 

  • We want to make sure our products and services are used for good. We focus on protecting privacy and free expression, and helping to prevent online harms

    We support the Global Network Initiative Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy. Following a self-assessment last year, we’re undergoing an external assessment against the principles, and we’ll share the findings next year.

    People have a fundamental right to express themselves, but we will block access to illegal content. This includes malicious traffic, intellectual property violations and images of child sexual abuse flagged by the Internet Watch Foundation.

    In 2021, we partnered with the Marie Collins Foundation to train around 1,000 professionals in the UK (over 8,000 since 2015) to help them support children who have been harmed or abused online. We’re also empowering young people to stay safe online through EE’s new PhoneSmart Licence.

    An estimated 1.8 million people in the UK have suffered threatening behaviour online in the past year.1 BT Sport’s Draw The Line campaign encouraged people to step up and stand against hate speech and abuse on social media – with support from our Hope United team of footballers.

  • We strive to only buy products and services from responsible companies. To work with us, suppliers must meet our standards, and we monitor risks and compliance through various assessments and audits. 

    See our Modern Slavery Statement for more on our responsible sourcing approach, supplier assessments, audit findings, and how we’re tackling modern slavery and conflict minerals.

  • Our global sales due diligence process helps us identify and address potential human rights impacts of our products and services. 

    We look at what we’re selling, who the customer is, and whether our product is likely to directly or indirectly support high-risk activities. Based on what we find, we may decide to conduct a more detailed human rights impact assessment, sometimes with external support.

Responsible in action: We’re investing in tech to help us live and work better

We’re investing to accelerate the tech innovations of the future that will enable people to live and work better.

We’re leveraging our responsible approach to build trust in new tech and make our solutions inclusive. This will help us differentiate our propositions and lead in future growth areas and innovation.

Engaging with the public on responsible tech

We’ve partnered with thinktank Demos1 to hold a national conversation on responsible tech. Our research showed evidence of a two-way crisis in trust. On the one hand people don’t trust how their data is used but on the other hand they also feel they are not being trusted to make their own decisions about how they use data. 

Over the last year, we’ve put £604 million into research and development.

Artificial intelligence (AI) enables data systems and machines to learn, adapt, personalise and prioritise.

These capabilities offer immense opportunities to transform sectors like healthcare and security for the better – but they also bring risks. We explore the ethical implications of new technology like AI through our responsible tech steering group and discussions with external experts to help us put our principles into practice every time.

0 %

said that as long as companies were transparent and clear about their intentions, they weren’t worried about how their personal data is used.

0 %

would support any use of their personal health data by private companies that could help improve their health.

0 %

were worried that their data is going to be used against them without their knowledge.

0 %

often worry about the unintended consequences of new technological developments.

1 2021 Demos poll of nationally representative sample of over 1,000 adults.

Supercharging diverse digital talent

We’re creating a digital talent movement to supercharge a diverse pipeline of digital talent for the UK.

People with the right skills and rich variety of experience needed to fulfil our growth agenda are few and far between.

Through BT Accelerate Digital, our digital talent movement, we will future-proof BT and the UK’s digital talent pipeline by engaging and inspiring people from diverse backgrounds to enter digital careers.

To kick off the movement, we’ll partner with Avado to provide mentoring support for a further 1,500 young people to help them develop digital business skills through FastFutures. We’ll also support 80 young people through Bootcamps designed to build advanced digital, data and AI skills. 

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We’re partnering with Avado to provide mentoring support for a further 1,500 young people to help them develop digital business skills

Protecting privacy and freedom of expression

In a digital world built on data, questions of privacy and freedom of expression become ever more complex. We’re all leaving data trails every minute of the day through our interactions on line, how we reveal ourselves on social media, where we travel with our mobile, the surveilled streets that we walk and drive down, even the routes that we take when we’re meandering around the supermarket aisles. 

Fighting modern slavery

Modern slavery is one of the scourges of our age. We go to extensive lengths to make sure we don’t work with suppliers that engage in this abhorrent behaviour. And we delve deep into the different layers of our supply chain in our efforts to uncover any unsavoury practices that might be feeding into our products, services, or operations.