UK Parliamentary Committee asks about algorithm use in decision-making

Maria Nikolova

As algorithms are used to make decisions in a variety of areas, including offering mortgages and credit cards, the Science and Technology Committee asks about the opportunities and risks of algorithmic decision-making in business, as well as government and public bodies.

The UK Parliament is growing increasingly curious about the use of innovative technology in various contexts. About a couple of months after the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence published its call for evidence, inviting submissions from all interested individuals and organisations on the economic, ethical and social implications of AI advances, another UK Parliamentary Committee has asked for feedback on similar issues.

The Science and Technology Committee has opened an inquiry into the use of algorithms in public and business decision making. Comments are welcome until October 20, 2017.

Actually, it is more precise to say that the Committee is re-opening this inquiry, as it already launched it in February this year. There have been 47 submissions to the earlier inquiry, including feedback from the Alan Turing Institute and Microsoft.

The new inquiry is aimed at continuing the previous one and at taking forward the evidence already received.

The Committee notes that in an increasingly digital world, algorithms are being used to make decisions in a number of contexts, ranging from decisions about offering mortgages and credit cards to checking job applications and sentencing criminals.

The new inquiry seeks to examine the extent of current and future use of algorithms in decision-making in Government and public bodies, businesses and others, and the corresponding risks and opportunities. The questions include the ability of algorithms to help eliminate discrimination in decision-making, as well as how to challenge such decisions. The Committee also aims to explore the possible methods for providing regulatory oversight of algorithmic decision-making, such as the rights described in the EU General Data Protection Regulation 2016.

A growing number of UK institutions and organizations are looking at AI solutions that may help them enhance their work. In July this year, Innovate UK invited applications for funding of projects involving machine learning. The aim of the proposals should be to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Innovate UK’s operational functions.

The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is also embracing regulatory technology (regtech) and various AI solutions in order to improve regulatory compliance. For instance, the FCA is looking at the possibility of making its Handbook machine-readable and then fully machine-executable. This means that machines can interpret and implement the rules directly.

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