The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com. Keith E. Sonderling is a commissioner on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.The views here are the author's own and should not be attributed to the EEOC or any other member of the commission. With 86 percent of major U.S. corporations predicting that artificial intelligence will become a "mainstream technology" at their company this year, management-by-algorithm is no longer the stuff of science fiction. AI has already transformed the way workers are recruited, hired, trained, evaluated and even fired. One recent study found that 83 percent of human resources leaders rely in some form on technology in employment decision-making.
There is mounting public concern over the influence that AI based systems has in our society. Coalitions in all sectors are acting worldwide to resist hamful applications of AI. From indigenous people addressing the lack of reliable data, to smart city stakeholders, to students protesting the academic relationships with sex trafficker and MIT donor Jeffery Epstein, the questionable ethics and values of those heavily investing in and profiting from AI are under global scrutiny. There are biased, wrongful, and disturbing assumptions embedded in AI algorithms that could get locked in without intervention. Our best human judgment is needed to contain AI's harmful impact. Perhaps one of the greatest contributions of AI will be to make us ultimately understand how important human wisdom truly is in life on earth.
While algorithm audits are growing rapidly in commonality and public importance, relatively little scholarly work has gone toward synthesizing prior work and strategizing future research in the area. This systematic literature review aims to do just that, following PRISMA guidelines in a review of over 500 English articles that yielded 62 algorithm audit studies. The studies are synthesized and organized primarily by behavior (discrimination, distortion, exploitation, and misjudgement), with codes also provided for domain (e.g. search, vision, advertising, etc.), organization (e.g. Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.), and audit method (e.g. sock puppet, direct scrape, crowdsourcing, etc.). The review shows how previous audit studies have exposed public-facing algorithms exhibiting problematic behavior, such as search algorithms culpable of distortion and advertising algorithms culpable of discrimination. Based on the studies reviewed, it also suggests some behaviors (e.g. discrimination on the basis of intersectional identities), domains (e.g. advertising algorithms), methods (e.g. code auditing), and organizations (e.g. Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn) that call for future audit attention. The paper concludes by offering the common ingredients of successful audits, and discussing algorithm auditing in the context of broader research working toward algorithmic justice.
After challenging the validity of these assumptions in real-world applications, we propose ways to move forward when they are violated. First, we show that group fairness criteria purely based on statistical properties of observed data are fundamentally limited. Revisiting this limitation from a causal viewpoint we develop a more versatile conceptual framework, causal fairness criteria, and first algorithms to achieve them. We also provide tools to analyze how sensitive a believed-to-be causally fair algorithm is to misspecifications of the causal graph. Second, we overcome the assumption that sensitive data is readily available in practice. To this end we devise protocols based on secure multi-party computation to train, validate, and contest fair decision algorithms without requiring users to disclose their sensitive data or decision makers to disclose their models. Finally, we also accommodate the fact that outcome labels are often only observed when a certain decision has been made. We suggest a paradigm shift away from training predictive models towards directly learning decisions to relax the traditional assumption that labels can always be recorded. The main contribution of this thesis is the development of theoretically substantiated and practically feasible methods to move research on fair machine learning closer to real-world applications.