eventJune 23 2021

Databite No. 145: Algorithmic Governance and the State of Impact Assessment in the EU, US, and Canada

Sarah Chander, Fenwick McKelvey, Brittany Smith, Jake Metcalf

Databite No. 145

Data & Society AI on the Ground Program Director Jacob Metcalf hosts a conversation with experts on the emerging regulations in the EU, US, and Canada, and asks how impact assessment practices can effectively account for the harms caused by algorithmic systems.

Algorithmic impact assessments have emerged as a centerpiece of the conversation about algorithmic governance. Impact assessments integrate many of the chief tools of algorithmic governance (e.g., auditing, end-to-end governance frameworks, ethics reviews) and speak to the challenges of algorithmic justice, equity, and community redress. Impact assessment (or similar accountability mechanisms) are at the core of recent headlines about procurement practices in Canada, leaked regulatory proposals in the EU, and new efforts to regulate the tech industry in the US. But do impact assessments promise too much? Multiple national and state governments have instituted, or are considering, requirements for impact assessment of algorithmic systems, but there is a surprisingly wide range of structures for these regulations.

About the Speakers

Sarah Chander leads EDRi’s policy work on AI and non-discrimination with respect to digital rights. She is interested in building thoughtful, resilient movements and she looks to make links between the digital and other social justice movements. Sarah has experience in racial and social justice, previously she worked in advocacy at the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), on a wide range of topics including anti-discrimination law and policy, intersectional justice, state racism, racial profiling and police brutality.

Fenwick McKelvey is an Associate Professor in Information and Communication Technology Policy in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University. He studies digital politics and policy. He is the author of Internet Daemons: Digital Communications Possessed (University of Minnesota Press, 2018) winner of the 2019 Gertrude J. Robinson Book Award. He is co-author of The Permanent Campaign: New Media, New Politics (Peter Lang, 2012) with Greg Elmer and Ganaele Langlois.

Jacob (Jake) Metcalf, PhD, is a researcher at Data & Society, where he is a member of the AI on the Ground Initiative, and works on an NSF-funded multisite project, Pervasive Data Ethics for Computational Research (PERVADE). For this project, he studies how data ethics practices are emerging in environments that have not previously grappled with research ethics, such as industry, IRBs, and civil society organizations. His recent work has focused on the new organizational roles that have developed around AI ethics in tech companies.

Brittany Smith is the Policy Director at Data & Society. Prior to joining Data & Society, Brittany worked at DeepMind and Google in policy, ethics and human rights roles. Brittany also currently serves on the Advisory Board of JUST AI, a humanities-led network inviting new ways of thinking about data and AI ethics. Brittany graduated from Northwestern University and the London School of Economics.

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About Data & Society

Data & Society is an independent nonprofit research organization. We believe that empirical evidence should directly inform the development and governance of new technology. We study the social implications of data and automation, producing original research to ground informed, evidence-based public debate about emerging technology.

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