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Use of algorithms in public sector should be regulated, Lords told

21 February 2020


A jobseeker, Anita Erickson, sits with Mike Munger, of the Career Transitions Center, Chicago, as she prepares for possible video interviews, in January

A jobseeker, Anita Erickson, sits with Mike Munger, of the Career Transitions Center, Chicago, as she prepares for possible video interviews, in Janua...

THERE needs to be “effective regulation, standards, and codes of practice” of the use of algorithms in the public sector, the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, has said.

Speaking in a debate in the House of Lords on the full implications of decision-making and prediction by algorithm in the public sector, on Thursday of last week, Dr Croft praised the Government for signing up to the OECD principles on artificial intelligence (AI), and said that the public sector should integrate them into their practices.

Dr Croft, who was a member of the House of Lords Select Committee on AI, explained: “They [the principles] are very powerful and, I believe, need to become our reference point in every piece of work. They are: AI should benefit people and the planet by driving inclusive growth, sustainable development, and well-being; AI systems should be designed in a way that respects the rule of law, human rights, democratic values, and diversity; AI should be transparent so that people understand AI-based outcomes and can challenge them; AI systems must function in a robust, secure, and safe way; and organisations and individuals developing, deploying, or operating AI systems should be held accountable for their proper functioning.”

Dr Croft continued: “Different parts of the public sector have codes of ethics distinctive to them. Developing patterns of regulation for different sectors will demand the integration of these five central principles with existing ethical codes and statements in, for example, policing, social work, or recruitment.

“The application of algorithms in the public sector is too wide a set of issues for a single regulator, or to be left unregulated. We need core values to be translated into effective regulation, standards, and codes of practice.

“I join others in urging the Government to work with the CDEI [Centre for
Data Ethics and Innovation] and others to clarify and deploy the crucial principles against which the public-centred use of AI is to be assessed, and to expand the efforts to hold public bodies and the Government themselves to account.”

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