Developing a comprehensive approach for algorithmic accountability to protect human rights.
Modern algorithms are replacing human decision making. Algorithms conduct sophisticated predictive analytics and execute complex tasks beyond human capability and speed. Their application is used to automate many functions traditionally carried out by humans and has expanded to key areas of decision-making. This includes algorithmic assessments in applications such as sentencing decisions, credit scoring, recruitment, and social security. The use of algorithmic systems to make or support decisions is becoming increasingly central to many areas of public and private life. This can affect all our human rights, from civil, cultural, economic, political, to social rights.
The pace of technological innovation is faster than the formulation, application and enforcement of governance and regulation of algorithms in decision-making. Some commentators have suggested that governance and regulatory mechanisms are anti-innovation and that it is too late or too difficult to manage this area of technological innovation. This exceptionalises new technologies such as algorithmic and artificial intelligence systems. It is not a valid argument for failing to govern the development and use of algorithmic systems. Human rights are universally applicable. New technologies can impact on human rights like any other sector and the potential benefits for such systems do not discount the need for ensuring human rights are respected and protected. International human rights law applies to the use of new technologies just as it applies in any other area of life.
The human rights-based approach to algorithmic accountability
States and businesses engaged in any part of the algorithmic life cycle, from the design, development and deployment to the supply of algorithmic systems, should embed a human rights-based approach.
International human rights law provides a means to define and assess harm, and provides a deeper and fuller means of analysing the overall effect of the use of algorithms. The specific obligations on States and expectations on businesses to prevent and protect human rights includes prescription of the mechanisms and processes required for implementation. The international human rights law framework can map on to the algorithmic life cycle and offers a holistic approach for accountability.
Existing mechanisms for algorithmic accountability such as data protection, impact assessments and compliance checks may have some relevance for protecting human rights and preventing violations. The international human rights law framework complements these frameworks and contributes to a more comprehensive approach for algorithmic accountability, incorporating robust safeguards and assessing the full scope of impact.
The next steps for our research are to operationalise this framework in practical guidance for states and businesses.
- Laura Carter
Google’s pay audit and the meaning of ‘equality’Read more
This blog was originally published on the Human Rights Centre Blog. In March of this year, Google found that they were…
- Lorna McGregor
The need for clear governance frameworks on predictive algorithms in military settingsRead more
This post originally appeared on the Humanitarian Law and Policy Blog. Editor’s note: In this post, as part of the AI blog…
HRBDT Public Panel Discussion: “Algorithmic Accountability and Human Rights” 26 March 2019Read more
On 26 March the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project hosted a panel discussion at The Royal Society on…
- HRBDT is delighted to co-organise with @UN_GP_RtoP a three-day Round Table with social media and tech companies on… https://twitter.com/i/web/status/1268130084621291521
- HRBDT Director Prof Lorna McGregor is looking forward to speaking at this critical seminar today organised by… https://twitter.com/i/web/status/1265585380012830720
- In their latest blog @ahmedshaheed and Prof Lorna McGregor set out 5 urgent principles for responding to harm cause… https://twitter.com/i/web/status/1263813112043618305
- Here's the @HRBDTNews weekly roundup of #HumanRights #TechNews including #ContactTracingApp #digitalinclusion a… https://twitter.com/i/web/status/1263039647636230144
- How can we ensure that the rights of #refugees are protected during this pandemic? Awareness of the existing laws i… https://twitter.com/i/web/status/1262699194873241600
- Here's the @HRBDTNews roundup of the weeks #Humanrights #tech news stories including #ContactTracingApp… https://twitter.com/i/web/status/1259869449177509888