Many multi-user scenarios are characterised by a combinatorial nature, i.e., an algorithm can take meaningful decisions for the users only if all their requirements and preferences are considered at the same time to select a solution from a huge potential space of possible system decisions. Sharing economy application, where users aim to find peers to form teams with in order to accomplish a task, and situations in which a limited number of potentially different resources, e.g. hotel rooms, must be distributed to users who have preferences over them are examples of such scenarios.
On 21st March the House of Select Committee on Communications published a report called ‘Growing up with the internet’. The report is based on an enquiry conducted by the House of Lords into Children and the Internet. UnBias team member Professor Marina Jirotka served as a specialist advisor to the enquiry and team member Professor Derek McAuley gave verbal evidence to it, elaborating on the written evidence submitted by Perez, Koene and McAuley.
What are algorithms and how are they designed? Why are they used in commercial practice and what kinds of benefits can they bring? What are the potential harmful impacts of using algorithms and how can they be prevented?
On Wednesday 15th February 2017 some UnBias consortium members had the pleasure of attending an Algorithm Workshop hosted by the Law School, University of Strathclyde. During the workshop, we had the opportunity to consider, discuss and begin to address key issues and concerns surrounding the contemporary prevalence of algorithms. The workshop was also attended by students from the host University and an interdisciplinary group of experts from areas including Law, Computer Science and the Social Sciences. This mix of expertise made for a really great afternoon of talks and discussions surrounding the design, development and use of algorithms through various disciplinary perspectives.
On February 3rd a group of twenty five stakeholders joined us at the Digital Catapult in London for our first discussion workshop.
The User Engagement workpackage of the project focuses on gathering together professionals from industry, academia, education, NGOs and research institutes in order to discuss societal and ethical issues surrounding the design, development and use of algorithms on the internet. We aim to create a space where these stakeholders can come together and discuss their various concerns and perspectives. This includes finding differences of opinion. For example, participants from industry often view algorithms as proprietary and commercially sensitive whereas those from NGOs frequently call for greater transparency in algorithmic design. It is important for us to draw out these kinds of varying perspectives and understand in detail the reasoning that lies behind them. Then, combined with the outcomes of the other project workpackages, we can identify points of resolution and produce outputs that seek to advance responsibility on algorithm driven internet platforms.
The UnBias team is pleased to announce the launch of a ground-breaking report that articulates the voice of children and young people, and their relationship to the internet and digital technologies.
This report is titled ‘The Internet on our Own Term: How Children and Young People Deliberated about their Digital Rights’ and describes the work carried since April 2015 in which young people aged between 12 and 17 gathered together in the cities of Leeds, London and Nottingham to participate in a series of jury-styled focus groups designed to ‘put the internet on trial’. In total, nine juries took place which included 108 young people, approximately 12 participants per jury.
For algorithm based systems, as with many other topics, 2016 turned out to be an eventful year. As we close the year and look back on events, the course of 2016 brought many of the issues we intend to address in the UnBias project to the attention of people and organizations who previously perhaps had not considered these things before.