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Category Archives: Civil Liberties

Algorithmic Transparency for the Smart City

Brauneis, Robert and Goodman, Ellen P., Algorithmic Transparency for the Smart City (August 2, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3012499

“Emerging across many disciplines are questions about algorithmic ethics – about the values embedded in artificial intelligence and big data analytics that increasingly replace human decisionmaking. Many are concerned that an algorithmic society is too opaque to be accountable for its behavior. An individual can be denied parole or denied credit, fired or not hired for reasons she will never know and cannot be articulated. In the public sector, the opacity of algorithmic decisionmaking is particularly problematic both because governmental decisions may be especially weighty, and because democratically-elected governments bear special duties of accountability. Investigative journalists have recently exposed the dangerous impenetrability of algorithmic processes used in the criminal justice field – dangerous because the predictions they make can be both erroneous and unfair, with none the wiser.  We set out to test the limits of transparency around governmental deployment of big data analytics, focusing our investigation on local and state government use of predictive algorithms. It is here, in local government, that algorithmically-determined decisions can be most directly impactful. And it is here that stretched agencies are most likely to hand over the analytics to private vendors, which may make design and policy choices out of the sight of the client agencies, the public, or both. To see just how impenetrable the resulting “black box” algorithms are, we filed 42 open records requests in 23 states seeking essential information about six predictive algorithm programs. We selected the most widely-used and well-reviewed programs, including those developed by for-profit companies, nonprofits, and academic/private sector partnerships. The goal was to see if, using the open records process, we could discover what policy judgments these algorithms embody, and could evaluate their utility and fairness.  To do this work, we identified what meaningful “algorithmic transparency” entails. We found that in almost every case, it wasn’t provided. Over-broad assertions of trade secrecy were a problem. But contrary to conventional wisdom, they were not the biggest obstacle. It will not usually be necessary to release the code used to execute predictive models in order to dramatically increase transparency. We conclude that publicly-deployed algorithms will be sufficiently transparent only if (1) governments generate appropriate records about their objectives for algorithmic processes and subsequent implementation and validation; (2) government contractors reveal to the public agency sufficient information about how they developed the algorithm; and (3) public agencies and courts treat trade secrecy claims as the limited exception to public disclosure that the law requires. Although it would require a multi-stakeholder process to develop best practices for record generation and disclosure, we present what we believe are eight principal types of information that such records should ideally contain.”

EFF – Congress is At Home, So Pay Your Members a Visit

EFF: “It’s August. In the United States, that means members of Congress will be swinging back home to their home districts to check in with their state-side staffers, hit some fundraisers, and maybe host a few public events. You can meet them. Constituents can request meetings with members of Congress while they are home this… Continue Reading

Gallup – 2017 Global Law and Order Report

2017 Global Law and Order Report:…” the latest findings from Gallup’s Law and Order Index, a worldwide measure that reveals how safe — or insecure — people feel in their neighborhood and how confident they are in their local police…the poll offers leaders a glimpse of how close or far countries are from achieving the… Continue Reading

Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

“The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University today released a comprehensive analysis of online media and social media coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. The report, “Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election,” documents how highly partisan right-wing sources helped shape mainstream press coverage and seize… Continue Reading

Ivy Stacks employee with UVa’s offsite shelving facility seriously injured in Charlottesville

Chronicle of Higher Education: “Tyler D.R. Magill, an employee with the University of Virginia’s Alderman Library, suffered a stroke Tuesday that may be related to injuries he sustained in a violent melee with white supremacists on the university’s Lawn Friday night, a friend of his family confirmed Wednesday. Mr. Magill was admitted around 10 a.m.… Continue Reading

US Institute of Peace – Negotiating Civil Resistance

Negotiating Civil Resistance July 19, 2017. By Anthony Wanis-St. John and Noah Rosen. United States Institute of Peace. “Reviewing the literature on negotiation and civil resistance, this report examines the current divide between the two and digs deeper to identify the fundamental convergences. It builds on these findings to illustrate why negotiations and negotiation concepts… Continue Reading

ALA condemns racism and violence in Charlottesville

“Today American Library Association President Jim Neal released the following statement regarding the weekend’s tragic violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. [The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 57,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to… Continue Reading

Perspectives on Harmful Speech Online

Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University – “This collection of essays includes perspectives on and approaches to harmful speech online from a wide range of voices within the Berkman Klein Center community. Recognizing that harmful speech online is an increasingly prevalent issue within society, we intend for the collection to highlight… Continue Reading

Where You Live Impacts Ability To Obtain Representation in Immigration Court

“Newly obtained case-by-case court records show that depending upon the community in which the immigrant resides, the odds of obtaining representation in Immigration Court deportation proceedings vary widely. If you happen to live in Honolulu, Hawaii, the odds are over 90 percent that you will be able to find an attorney to represent you. The… Continue Reading

Removal of animal welfare data from USDA site sparks FOIA requests

Follow up to previous postings – DOJ defends USDA take-down of massive animal abuse database; Durbin Demands Trump Administration Restore Animal Cruelty; and Animal welfare information wiped from USDA website – see updated status on this matter: People who care about animal welfare are demanding information from USDA – “The Agriculture Department abruptly removed all animal… Continue Reading

20 EU countries see rise in modern slavery risks – Study

“Modern slavery risks have risen in nearly three quarters of the 28 member states of the European Union over the last year, reveals an annual study from global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft. According to the 2nd edition of the Modern Slavery Index (MSI), the five EU countries posing the highest risk are Romania, Greece, Italy,… Continue Reading

Report – Disruptive innovation in the courts

“The Joint Technology Committee (JTC) has released a new Resource Bulletin titled “Courts Disrupted.” This paper takes a captivating look at today’s fast-changing world of innovation and public expectations. Recognizing courts will not remain untouched by disruptive innovation, the paper encourages embracing rather than resisting the opportunities to improve business processes and make justice more… Continue Reading