Research Post

Towards Algorithm Auditing: A Survey on Managing Legal, Ethical and Technological Risks of AI, ML and Associated Algorithms


Business reliance on algorithms are becoming ubiquitous, and companies are increasingly concerned about their algorithms causing major financial or reputational damage. High-profile cases include VW’s Dieselgate scandal with fines worth of $34.69B, Knight Capital’s bankruptcy (~$450M) by a glitch in its algorithmic trading system, and Amazon’s AI recruiting tool being scrapped after showing bias against women. In response, governments are legislating and imposing bans, regulators fining companies, and the Judiciary discussing potentially making algorithms artificial “persons” in Law.

Soon there will be ‘billions’ of algorithms making decisions with minimal human intervention; from autonomous vehicles and finance, to medical treatment, employment, and legal decisions. Indeed, scaling to problems beyond the human is a major point of using such algorithms in the first place. As with Financial Audit, governments, business and society will require Algorithm Audit; formal assurance that algorithms are legal, ethical and safe. A new industry is envisaged: Auditing and Assurance of Algorithms (cf. Data privacy), with the remit to professionalize and industrialize AI, ML and associated algorithms.

The stakeholders range from those working on policy and regulation, to industry practitioners and developers. We also anticipate the nature and scope of the auditing levels and framework presented will inform those interested in systems of governance and compliance to regulation/standards. Our goal in this paper is to survey the key areas necessary to perform auditing and assurance, and instigate the debate in this novel area of research and practice.

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