CDEI and RUSI hold discussion groups to examine use of algorithms in policing

The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) is partnering with the defence and security-focused Think Tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) to carry out research into the potential for algorithmic bias in policing and how to ensure adequate oversight of these technologies.

RUSI will now conduct independent research into the potential for bias to occur in predictive analytics technologies being developed by police forces as part of the Think Tank’s wider review into bias in algorithmic decision-making.

The organisations recently held discussions which brought together police forces, civil society organisations, academics and policymakers to discuss the use of algorithms in policing, the potential for bias and how the regulatory and governance environment can be improved. Earlier talks, held in partnership with TechUK, looked to explore the role of technology providers in this space.

Attendees discussed a wide range of issues including:

Benefits and risks of predictive analytics in policing: One of the benefits discussed was the potential for predictive analytics to help police better manage and gain insights from their data. However, the potential for biased outcomes against certain groups (if the algorithm were trained on historic police data) was noted as a risk

Impact on individuals’ civil liberties and Human Rights: There was discussion of the important implications these technologies can have, if unchecked, on individuals’ civil liberties and Human Rights. Consensus was reached on the need to conduct meaningful public engagement before rolling out these tools, and in particular with the groups most likely to be affected by them

Challenges of sharing data across agencies: The need for police to work with local authorities in order to have access to greater data sets and develop tools to provide a better picture of trends, such as the drivers behind youth violence, were debated. Many attendees stressed concerns around how this could lead to further surveillance and data protection issues as well as being somewhat challenging to implement in practice

The need for a consistent and nationwide approach: The importance of consistency in developing this technology was emphasised. There were different views expressed about which body would need to drive this approach, but there were strong calls for clearer oversight and governance in this area

The CDEI will use the findings of this research to co-develop, with the policing sector, a Code of Practice for the trialling of predictive analytical technology in policing. The Code will seek to mitigate algorithmic bias and address wider ethical concerns.

RUSI will publish its initial research findings in September alongside the CDEI’s draft Code of Practice, which will then be circulated for consultation. The CDEI is set to publish its final report on the review into bias in algorithmic decision-making, including recommendations to the Government, in March next year.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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