Strategic Games and Algorithmic Secrecy

42 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2019

See all articles by Ignacio Cofone

Ignacio Cofone

McGill University Faculty of Law

Katherine J. Strandburg

New York University School of Law

Date Written: August 21, 2019


We challenge a claim commonly made by industry and government representatives and echoed by some academics: that algorithmic decision-making processes are better kept opaque or secret because, otherwise, decision-subjects will “game the system”, leading to inaccurate or unfair results. We show that the range of situations in which people are able to game decision-making algorithms is narrow, even when there is substantial disclosure. We then analyze how to identify when gaming is possible in light of (i) how tightly the decision-making proxies are tied to the factors that would ideally determine the outcome, (ii) how easily those proxies can be altered by decision-subjects, and (iii) whether such strategic alterations ultimately lead to mistaken decisions.

Keywords: algorithmic decision-making, gaming, algorithmic transparency, algorithmic secrecy, algorithmic opacity, algorithmic accountability, automated decision-making, credit scoring, criminal investigation, criminal procedure, employment law game theory & the law

Suggested Citation

Cofone, Ignacio and Strandburg, Katherine J., Strategic Games and Algorithmic Secrecy (August 21, 2019). McGill Law Journal, 2019. Available at SSRN: or

Ignacio Cofone (Contact Author)

McGill University Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec


Katherine J. Strandburg

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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