Enslaving the Algorithm: From a ‘Right to an Explanation’ to a ‘Right to Better Decisions’?

IEEE Security & Privacy (2018) 16(3), pp. 46-54, DOI: 10.1109/MSP.2018.2701152

14 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2017 Last revised: 15 Jul 2018

See all articles by Lilian Edwards

Lilian Edwards

Michael Veale

University College London, Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP)

Date Written: 2018

Abstract

As concerns about unfairness and discrimination in “black box” machine learning systems rise, a legal “right to an explanation” has emerged as a compellingly attractive approach for challenge and redress. We outline recent debates on the limited provisions in European data protection law, and introduce and analyse newer explanation rights in French administrative law and the draft modernised Council of Europe Convention 108. While individual rights can be useful, in privacy law they have historically unreasonably burdened the average data subject. “Meaningful information” about algorithmic logics is more technically possible than commonly thought, but this exacerbates a new “transparency fallacy” — an illusion of remedy rather than anything substantively helpful. While rights-based approaches deserve a firm place in the toolbox, other forms of governance, such as impact assessments, “soft law”, judicial review and model repositories deserve more attention, alongside catalysing agencies acting for users to control algorithmic system design.

Keywords: GDPR, Data Protection, Right to an Explanation, Right to Explanation, Algorithmic Accountability, Automated Decision-Making, Automated Decisions, General Data Protection Regulation, Council of Europe, Convention 108, CoE 108, Transparency, Judicial Review, Black Boxes, Machine Learning

Suggested Citation

Edwards, Lilian and Veale, Michael, Enslaving the Algorithm: From a ‘Right to an Explanation’ to a ‘Right to Better Decisions’? (2018). IEEE Security & Privacy (2018) 16(3), pp. 46-54, DOI: 10.1109/MSP.2018.2701152. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3052831 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3052831

Michael Veale (Contact Author)

University College London, Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) ( email )

Boston House
36–38 Fitzroy Square
London, W1t 3EY
United Kingdom

No contact information is available for Lilian Edwards

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