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BCS calls for retention of human review of AI decisions

13/10/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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The right to human review of decisions made fully by computers should not be removed while AI is still in its infancy, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT has warned.

It has raised the issue in response to the consultation, Data: A New Direction, launched by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on changes to the data regulatory regime for the UK.

This has suggested that human appeal against some automated decisions by AI (which might include recruitment or loan eligibility) could be unnecessary. But BCS has responded that, because AI does not always involve personal data to make decisions about individuals, true protection of the right to revisit must consider a wider regulation of the technology.

DCMS is seeking further evidence before forming firm proposals on reform of the UK’s existing data legislation, including considering the removal of Article 22 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This focuses specifically on the right to review fully automated decisions.

Sam De Silva

Dr Sam De Silva (pictured), chair of BCS’ law specialist group and a partner at law firm CMS, explained: “Article 22 is not an easy provision to interpret and there is danger in interpreting it in isolation like many have done.

“We still do need clarity on the rights someone has in the scenario where there is fully automated decision making which could have significant impact on that individual.

 “We would also welcome clarity on whether Article 22(1) should be interpreted as a blanket prohibition of all automated data processing that fits the criteria or a more limited right to challenge a decision resulting from such processing.

“As the professional body for IT, BCS is not convinced that either retaining Article 22 in its current form or removing it achieves such clarity.

 “We also need to consider that protection of human review of fully automated decisions is currently in a piece of legislation dealing with personal data. If no personal data is involved the protection does not apply, but the decision could still have a life changing impact on us.

“For example, say an algorithm is created deciding whether you should get a vaccine. The data you need to enter into the system is likely to be date of birth, ethnicity, and other things, but not name or anything which could identify you as the person.  

“Based on the input, the decision could be that you’re not eligible for a vaccine. But any protections in the GDPR would not apply as there is no personal data.

“So, if we think the protection is important enough it should not go into the GDPR. It begs the question - do we need to regulate AI generally - and not through the ‘back door’ via GDPR?

“It‘s welcome that government is consulting carefully before making any changes to people’s right to appeal decisions about them by algorithms and automated systems - but the technology is still in its infancy.”

Gathering views

BCS said it supports the consultation and will be gathering views from across its membership.

The consultation document says that “automated decision making is likely to increase greatly in many industries in the coming years. The need to maintain a capability to provide human review may, in future, not be practicable or proportionate, and it is important to assess when this safeguard is needed and how it works in practice.”

It acknowledges that there may be “legitimate need for certain high risk AI-derived decisions to require a human review, even if this restricts the scope of use of such systems or makes them slower.”

Image from BCS

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