Governing with Algorithmic Impact Assessments: Six Observations

In this paper, Watkins et al raise six open questions surrounding the implementation of algorithmic impact assessments, such as methods, scope, public participation, and so on, signalling the direction for future research and potential challenges of implementation.

Algorithmic impact assessments (AIA) are increasingly being proposed as a mechanism for algorithmic accountability. These assessments are seen as potentially useful for anticipating, avoiding, and mitigating the negative consequences of algorithmic decision-making systems (ADS). At the same time, what an AIA would entail remains under-specified. While promising, AIAs raise as many questions as they answer. Choices about the methods, scope, and purpose of impact assessments structure the possible governance outcomes. Decisions about what type of effects count as an impact, when impacts are assessed, whose interests are considered, who is invited to participate, who conducts the assessment, the public availability of the assessment, and what the outputs of the assessment might be all shape the forms of accountability that AIA proponents seek to encourage. These considerations remain open, and will determine whether and how AIAs can function as a viable governance mechanism in the broader algorithmic accountability toolkit, especially with regard to furthering the public interest. Because AlAs are still an incipient governance strategy, approaching them as social constructions that do not require a single or universal approach offers a chance to produce interventions that emerge from careful deliberation.

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Stephanie Sheir


Algorithmic impact assessment

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