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Promises and limits of algorithmic accountability in Europe

Carlsbergfondets postdoc-stipendier i Danmark

What

Algorithms have become an integrated part of our everyday lives. Whether we like it or not, they are gradually becoming decision-making agents, based on the data collected about us. In the forefront of this new era of automated decisions, this study focuses on issues of transparency and accountability of algorithms. The purpose of this project is threefold: 1) to ascertain the role of Intellectual Property Rights in bolstering the efficiency of algorithms and establishing the limits to algorithmic accountability; 2) to analyse the promises of algorithmic accountability expressed in rights and safeguards provided to individuals under data protection rules; 3) to propose a regulatory framework reconciling rights of IPR holder and those of individuals.

Why

Our data is essential and valuable input.By disclosing much of our personal information to companies and governments, we often have no clear understanding of how and what the data is used for. Algorithms are the vehicle of processing this big amount of data, and are designed to analyse, propose, and decide on our behalf.As a consequence, they are increasingly influencing our lives and society at large.Examples of this development abound: from Amazon and Google's customised and concierge-like services, to algorithms used for risk assessments of bank credit scores and development of personalised medicine.As algorithms become ever more ubiquitous and mundane, it is important to present a balanced view of both sides-the developers' interests and users' rights-in a timely and proactive manner.

How

As a primary method, this study relies on a legal dogmatic method in interpreting legal sources. However, given the complexity of the outlined research area, it is an overall ambition of the project to embrace a combination of methodologies tailored to answer particular research questions. Thus, to identify the limits and technological prospects of accountability, it is essential to apply the insights of Law and Technology. To consider economic underpinnings of accountability, it is important to ascertain data protection requirements against economic incentives conferred by IPRs on algorithms, employing the Law and Economics approach. Finally, to suggest a form and extent of regulation, it is crucial to incorporate recommendations deduced from semi-structured interviews with stakeholders.

SSR

The topic of the project transcends the boundaries of merely theoretical research: understanding how algorithms impact our lives is just a first step to proposing measures to shape this impact in a socially responsible way. The pervasiveness of algorithms in a modern world makes this topic relevant for society in general, and every individual in particular. As a thought experiment, there is hardly any field of human activity that could not be automated, in principle: it is reasonable to expect that the use of opaque computational models and algorithms would only be intensified and broadened.The study also envisions the establishment of a dialogue with representatives of the IT industry, contributing towards voicing societal and ethical concerns and getting feedback from the tech community