Maybe you've never heard of algorithmic discrimination, but it most likely has affected you at some point in your life.
How could algorithmic discrimination affect you? Computer algorithms are used for everything nowadays, and maybe you've realized they use them to target advertising to customers, but they also use them for a variety of other reasons that may be impacting your life more than advertisements.
What are they used for and when is it considered algorithmic discrimination?
An algorithm is a computer procedure that is created in order to solve a problem. On the surface, according to an article published by the ACLU, they appear to be an objective method for solving problems, however, they are highly susceptible to human bias.
In the ACLU article, the author, Rashida Richardson states, "These tools are used to make bail and setencing decision, replicating the racism in the criminal justice system under a guise of technological neutrality."
- Banks using them to determine who should be offered credit
- Cities using them to determine which children can attend which schools
- Schools using them for teacher evaluations
- Healthcare providers using them to find pregnancy complications
- Firefighters using them to assist with work
- Companies using them to select applicants for job interviews
- Advertisers using them to target customers
- Government agencies using them to predict who might commit and crime, where a crime might be committed, and who should be allowed bail when jailed
- Government officials use them for facial recognition technology
The ubiquitous use of algorithms means that at some point everyone has either been affected or knows someone who has. You may be wondering what is the problem with using algorithms for in these instances? The issue, as pointed out by the ACLU article, is that even when it is suspected that there is a major issue with an algorithm, such as racial profiling, access to the algorithms code is a difficult matter. Private companies are often the ones who create and code the algorithm and they fight to keep their property secret.
New York City Council passed legislation that would create a task force that would review these algorithms for fairness. Whether the algorithms will ever be made public is still up in the air.