NYC Technology Committee Hearing on Algorithm Transparency

James Vacca, Chair of the NYC Council Committee on Technology, recently proposed legislation to provide oversight and regulation of the use of algorithms to determine access to city services (housing, school acceptance, fire houses, etc.).  The full video includes witness testimony from BetaNYC, NCLU, and the Brennan Center for Justice.  The event was also transcribed in real time on Twitter and summarized afterwards on GitHub.

A few stand-out insights from the meeting are:

  1. The total lack of oversight currently in place for automated decision-making in NYC government offices;
  2. The NYC’s Department Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) lack of interest in providing this oversight (they asserted the departments should essentially self-regulate); and
  3. The inability for anyone on the NYC side to provide a list of the different tools and processes currently in use to automate (or semi-automate) government decision-making.

While listening to the video, consider how we might be able to prepare our students to ask the types of questions posed by James Vacca, and to develop the habits of mind to weigh perceived technological risks against real civil rights violations, as expressed by expert witnesses Young-Mi Lee (Brooklyn Defenders Office).

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