Articles  |    |  January 8, 2020

The Ethical Implications of Using Artificial Intelligence in Auditing

Article by Ivy Munoko, Helen L. Brown-Liburd and Miklos Vasarhelyi.
Published in Journal of Business Ethics.


Accounting firms are reporting the use of Artificial Intelligence in their auditing and advisory functions, citing benefits such as time savings, faster data analysis, increased levels of accuracy, more in-depth insight into business processes, and enhanced client service. AI, an emerging technology that aims to mimic the cognitive skills and judgment of humans, promises competitive advantages to the adopter. As a result, all the Big 4 firms are reporting its use and their plans to continue with this innovation in areas such as audit planning risk assessments, tests of transactions, analytics, and the preparation of audit work-papers, among other uses. As the uses and benefits of AI continue to emerge within the auditing profession, there is a gradual awakening to the fact that unintended consequences may also arise. Thus, we heed to the call of numerous researchers to not only explore the benefits of AI but also investigate the ethical implications of the use of this emerging technology. By combining two futuristic ethical frameworks, we forecast the ethical implications of the use of AI in auditing, given its inherent features, nature, and intended functions. We provide a conceptual analysis of the practical ethical and social issues surrounding AI, using past studies as well as our inferences based on the reported use of the technology by auditing firms. Beyond the exploration of these issues, we also discuss the responsibility for the policy and governance of emerging technology.