Self-reinforcing loop of data could put human rights at risk

A conversation with Justin Nogarede

@J_Noga works for the Foundation for European Progressive Studies, was previously at the European Commission focussing on competition law and European regulations.

As a trainee in the application law unit at the European Commission, he became aware of the issues involved in ensuring member states comply with EU law, finding that often there isn’t the staff or resources available to enforce directives - for example, the directive on data protection has existed since 1995, but was not widely enforced. Justin now focuses more on data governance, and is finding that as new digital infrastructures are rolled out, they are driven by narrow efficiency concerns and are not accountable. Looking into these new infrastructures is a great opportunity to make the system more participatory and accountable - but we have to take it.

Feeding existing data into AI systems can create problems - for example, when predictive policing has been shown to drive more officers into wealthy areas, as data shows a higher rate of arrests in those areas. Data therefore creates a self-reinforcing loop. Further, digital systems often rely on a binary logic, which healthcare and social problems simply don’t fit. The key problem is that data is a simplification of the real world. Further, some AI systems may support a conservative bias, such as when they are used to predict which offenders are most likely to reoffend.

Regulation of digital infrastructure would be a step in the right direction, and the argument that it would stifle innovation is weak - technological advances must make sense and make lives better. It may not be possible to have 100% compliance, but more involvement of public authorities (even at local level) would be a good step, as would more transparency over how these technologies function. Why is all this innovation not channelled into ways for people to live a better life?

Participate in the conversation with Justin here: Why is all this innovation not being channeled into ways for people to help them live a better life?

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