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IFOW supporting amendments to DPDI to mandate the undertaking Algorithmic Impact Assessments

IFOW were proud to have supported tabled amendments, with cross-party support, supporting the inclusion of workplace-specific algorithmic impact assessments within the DPDI Bill.

On 25th March the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill (DPDI) was debated in Grand Committee in the House of Lords.

The DPDI Bill, which follows on from the Government consultation, “Data: A New Direction” (carried out in 2023), is purportedly aimed at updating and “simplifying” UK data protection law, “to reduce regulatory burdens and encourage innovation”.

IFOW were proud to have supported tabled amendments, with cross-party support, supporting the inclusion of workplace-specific algorithmic impact assessments within the Bill.

Lord Bassam spoke at length in the debate, with Hansard recording:

“Our Amendment 104A would insert a new Section into the 2018 Act, requiring data controllers who undertake high-risk processing in relation to work-related decisions or activities to carry out an additional algorithmic impact assessment and make reasonable mitigations in response to the outcome of that assessment.

I ought to have said earlier that Amendment 98A is a minor part of the consequential text.

An improved workplace-specific algorithmic impact assessment is the best way to remedy clear deficiencies in Clause 20 as drafted, and it signals Labour’s international leadership and alignment with international regulatory and AI ethics initiatives. These are moving towards the pre-emptive evaluation of significant social and workplace impacts by responsible actors, combined with a procedure for ongoing monitoring, which is not always possible. It also moves towards our commitment to algorithmic assurance and will help to ensure that UK businesses are not caught up in what is sometimes described as the “Brussels effect”.

The impact assessment should cover known impacts on work and workers’ rights and the exercise of those, combining the best of audit technology and legal impact assessments. There would also be a duty to respond appropriately to the findings of that assessment. One of the simplest and most effective ways to boost transparency and consultation provisions is to attach them to these improved impact assessments by requiring disclosure of the assessment, at least in summary form, and permitting requests for additional information relevant to that assessment.

In our view, the definition of “high risk” in the Bill should be deemed to include significant impacts on work and workers. For clarity, this includes: any impact on equal opportunities or outcomes of work, access to employment, pay, contractual status, terms and conditions of employment, health and well-being, lawful association rights, and associated training. This could be done by a discreet deeming provision at several places in the Bill. These factors would also provide for a threshold for the more rigorous workplace assessment.

In our view, the core components of that assessment are: a requirement to establish a process for undertaking impact assessments; a requirement to assess significant impacts on work and employees; a requirement to involve those affected, including employees, workers and official representatives; a requirement to take appropriate steps in response, or, in other words, to mitigate and impose safeguards; and a requirement to disclose metrics, methods and mitigation taken.

In many ways, Amendment 104A is a continuation of the debates on the DMCC Bill on changing uses of technology in workplaces and the potential for workers to be disadvantaged by the decisions produced by software. Given the risks, we feel that there should be more protections in data legislation rather than fewer, and transparency and consultation are key.”

In our role as Strategic Research Partner for the APPG on the Future of Work, IFOW will continue to bring academics, civil society and industry together with MPs and Peers to improve understanding about this vital area.

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