Algorithmic Control: Automated Decisionmaking in America’s Cities
Governing bodies throughout the United States are turning to automated decision making systems in an attempt to make their operations more efficient, their services more equitable, and their economies more robust. These technologies, though, aren’t free from the biases and bad calculations that also plague human decision making, and they’ll need their own accountability measures and guarantees of transparency to protect the populace against institutionalizing poor choices.
MuckRock and the Rutgers Institute for Information Policy & Law (RIIPL) are collaborating on a new reporting and research project about local government use of big data, artificial intelligence, and algorithms.
According to Rutgers Law Professor Ellen P. Goodman, who will be partnering on the project, “Algorithms are playing an ever larger part in who goes to jail, who gets dibs on the best education, how we move through cities, and every other part of public life – we need to know more about them.”
Through interviews with leading experts and public records requests filed across the country, MuckRock Projects Editor/Senior Reporter Beryl Lipton will investigate city contracts, requests for proposals, and in-house development of these systems of governance to build an open, searchable database of how these technologies are in use.
We’ll be looking at the data going into these algorithms, the models they use, the outcomes they produce, and the policies dictating how these tools are being integrated into our current systems.
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Faced with spikes in child abuse reports, one Pennsylvania county turns to algorithms for triaging safety
For five years, officials at the Department of Human Services in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania have been working on a tool to triage calls made to the county’s child protection services hotline, one of many used around the country
As local legislators debate facial recognition, some agencies restrict it with their own policies first
Last month, San Francisco became the first municipality in the country to ban the use of facial recognition by city departments. Later today, Somerville, Massachusetts may join its ranks. Agencies in other cities, however, aren’t waiting for city councils to weigh in, implementing policies that bar the use of facial recognition. Though the agency-level limits are not subject to the public development and enforcement that support city or state-level rules, they can be important measures in an agency’s own relationship with residents.
Unwilling to wait for federal regulation to develop, municipal leaders from California to Massachusetts are pushing their own rules on the acquisition and use of facial recognition technology.