In recent years there has been lively discussion about artificial intelligence revolutionising the way we work and live our lives. In its policy paper on the AI Sector Deal, the UK government predicted that the development of AI technology could have the same dramatic impact on society as the invention of the printing press. The anticipation of a new AI era, and the increased deployment of algorithmic decision systems, has been accompanied by wariness about how such technology will be used and regulated. In June 2018 the European Commission created a High-Level Expert Group on Artificial intelligence with a remit to work on ethics guidelines and in late 2018 the UK launched the AI-focused Centre for Data Ethics + Innovation (CDEI). The Chair of that Centre, Roger Taylor, said that it was established because the government had “woken up to the fact that algorithmic decision making systems, artificial intelligence… present novel problems and they are testing, to destruction possibly, our current regulatory arrangements”.
Over the coming months our Public Law and Criminal Litigation teams will look at opportunities and challenges for those looking to create and use algorithmic decision systems, and implement AI solutions, in the public sector and criminal justice system. We will consider the existing legal framework and how it may develop further to deal with these methods of decision making. In the first of these posts we will be briefly look at the technology, how it is already being utilised in the public sector, and areas of focus for later blog posts.
AI and Algorithmic Decision Making
Algorithmic decision systems are “specific types of algorithms that focus on decision making”. They can include systems that utilise artificial intelligence (explained further below) and systems that analyse data in different ways. Some algorithmic decision systems are classified as “semi-automatic” systems which can assist humans who are still empowered with making the final decision. Other systems, are “fully automatic” and require no human input at all before a decision is made.
There is no universally accepted definition of artificial intelligence. The Government Office for Science defines AI as “the analysis of data to model some aspect of the world. Inferences from these models are then used to predict and anticipate possible future events”. The ICO differentiates this from normal data analysis by explaining that “AI programs don’t linearly analyse data in the way they were originally programmed. Instead they learn from the data in order to respond intelligently to new data and adapt their outputs accordingly”. In other words, the decision making process is not simply pre-programmed by a human but is itself analysed and modified. It would be possible to predict a decision made using normal automated data analysis by understanding how a program dealt with the different variables. In contrast, when AI is used it would not be possible to make such a prediction because the program or system is not only being tasked with analysing the data but also with the method of analysis.
The use of AI and Algorithmic Decision Making in the Public Sector and Criminal Justice System
Governments in the UK, Europe and throughout the world have already begun using AI technology. The government guide to using artificial intelligence in the public sector explains how the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency has used AI to help ensure that MOT standards remained high and the Department for International Development (DFID) has used it to help developing countries better understand their population distribution. In Europe, the Danish government agency tasked with handling benefits has been using AI, and it has been used to improve efficiency at the Swedish Land Registry.
Controversially, AI and other forms of algorithmic decision-making, have also been deployed in the field of criminal justice, particularly in the United States. In some states judges are using automated systems that generate scores to indicate the likelihood of re-offending when determining whether bail should be granted, and when determining prison sentences for convicted criminals. In the UK its use has been much more limited. Durham Constabulary has developed with Cambridge University the Harm Assessment Risk Tool (HART), a machine learning system which analyses 34 categories of data to predict the likeliness of reoffending. The tool is not though used to determine bail or sentencing decisions but only to inform the selection of candidates for a rehabilitation programme.
The European Parliament’s Panel for the Future of Science and Technology described algorithmic decision-making as being used in “energy, education, healthcare, transportation, the judicial system and security”.
Concluding Thoughts and Areas of Focus
Different algorithmic decision systems, including those employing AI, are already impacting on a wide variety of government work. The technology can be used to improve efficiency and effectiveness, saving valuable time and resources, but also has the capability to impact on individual rights. Given the range of technology and potential effects, it is unsurprising that it has been looked at as a challenge by public sector organisations and those affected by decisions made, or influenced, by it.
Our Future Blogs on AI and Algorithmic Decision-Making
Further blogs will be looking at how administrative law might work to meet the challenge of these new methods of decision making, and what can be done by those developing and employing the technology to ensure that it works within the constitutional cornerstones of equality, legal accountability and transparency.
You can subscribe to our blog to get the latest updates. Please note, an RSS reader is required to subscribe.
About the author
Fred Allen is an associate within the Public Law Department and International Crime Group. His clients have included businesses, trade associations, religious institutions, schools, education providers, charities, and private clients including high net worth individuals, and senior political and business figures. He has worked on a range of public law challenges and matters including public inquiries; inquests; judicial review proceedings; tribunal appeals; defences against extradition requests and European Arrest Warrants; and applications to the European Court of Human Rights in relation to extradition and criminal proceedings.
Latest blogs & news
In our recent blog, we explored why a Framework Agreement structure is typically the most appropriate customer contracting model for IT managed services providers (“MSPs”) and IT consultancies which offer a diverse product and service offering. Whilst our initial blog focussed on the purpose and terms of the Framework Agreement itself, that document is merely the starting point, given that a Work Order is also needed to document specific terms relating to each product or service offered by an MSP or IT consultancy. A typical service offering is a dedicated software support helpdesk, usually provided to support each of the software products offered by the MSP or IT consultancy to its customers. This blog considers a handful of the key issues to bear in mind when documenting the terms of a Work Order relating to the supply of a software support helpdesk service.
Many businesses lack comprehensive in-house IT expertise and resources to fully implement and manage all of their IT infrastructure requirements. IT managed services providers (“MSPs”) and IT consultancies plug the gaps by typically offering a diverse range of IT services and products to lighten the burden on their customers’ in-house IT teams (or to even remove the need to have an in-house IT team).
In this blog series, we will review the key proposals for reform of data protection law within the Government’s consultation paper ‘Data: A New Direction’. We will consider how far the Government will stray from the current path and signpost some potential pitfalls and practicalities for consideration along the way.
Potential reforms to UK data privacy laws will change the way that cookies work on websites - businesses need to prepare now.
In the last instalment we talked about the ways in which the founders of KNow Wear Limited could protect the intellectual property in their business. Since then, the business has been progressing well and our founders have been working on developing a prototype.
In our last instalment our founders, Sarah and Chris, considered the basics in establishing their tech startup and they incorporated a company under the registered name ‘KNow Wear Limited’.
Many companies in the tech sector will be aware of the new immigration system and Skilled Worker category opening in a couple of weeks on 1 December. For those companies without a sponsor licence, they will need to apply for one in order to recruit both non-EU and EU citizens. EU citizens resident in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020 can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
Welcome back to the blog series covering the lifecycle of a tech startup, from a legal perspective.
Alex (tech), Andy (tech), Emer (investments) and I (investments) work alongside startups and founders day to day and thought it might to helpful to some of you out there to bring together our expertise on the legal issues that tend to arise and how we deal with them.
This blog will explore the difficulties currently facing tech coworking spaces in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, how providers can keep tenants engaged and what the future may hold for these spaces. For an audio introduction to this topic, please listen to episode 7 of our Tech in Two Minutes podcast.
In recent years there has been lively discussion about artificial intelligence revolutionising the way we work and live our lives. In its policy paper on the AI Sector Deal, the UK government predicted that the development of AI technology could have the same dramatic impact on society as the invention of the printing press.
The Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) has today (18 December 2019) given the tech sector an early Christmas present by publishing its interim report on its market study, commenced earlier this year, into online platforms and digital advertising.
If you are a trader selling to consumers online, whether that is through a web-based platform or a mobile app, it is important that you understand and comply with relevant consumer protection laws. Eager to launch, many traders fail to satisfy the key legal requirements of fairness and transparency in their online consumer terms despite serious consequences for non-compliance.
After a 13 year legal battle, the Supreme Court has awarded £2m in compensation to a professor for an invention he created during his employment, nearly forty years ago. This ruling poses the question; will Shanks v Unilever open the floodgates to future compensation claims from disgruntled employees?
Security tokens are a digital representation of ownership rights in real world assets (such as property or shares) and have captured the curiosity of entrepreneurs, startups and investors. This blog summarises the potential benefits and pitfalls of security tokens and is part of our wider crypto assets blog.
Whether you are in the market for short-term profit or making long-term investments, adequate planning is certainly a worthwhile (and small) investment of your time and money. If you’ve been savyy enough to successfully invest in crypto-assets, make sure you are smart enough to ensure your loved ones can benefit, should the worst happen.
Trust is the cornerstone of commercial activity and can be enhanced in the online world by the use of e-signatures and trust services. In this blog we review the different types of e-signature and consider their legal validity and security for executing contracts and deeds.
Website development agreements – consider the content of your contract as well as the content on your site
A strong online presence is often a crucial component of a business’ marketing strategy. If your business doesn’t have sufficient resources to develop its website in-house, it will need to engage a website developer. It is imperative to enter into a carefully drafted legally binding contract with your website developer from the outset of the project in order to protect your business interests and minimise the risk of any future disputes.
On 11 June, the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a “Dear CEO” letter on how banks should deal with the financial crime risks associated with “cryptoassets”. The FCA defines cryptoassets as publicly available mediums of exchange that feature a distributed ledger and decentralised system for exchanging value, such as Bitcoin and Ether. These assets are more commonly known as cryptocurrencies.
Last month the National Crime Agency (‘NCA’) published its annual strategic assessment of Serious and Organised Crime (‘SOC’) in the UK. The data has come from a variety of law enforcement agencies and other sources including the National Cyber Security Centre (‘NCSC’).