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Against the Dehumanisation of Decision-Making. Algorithmic Decisions at the Crossroads of IP, Data Protection, and Freedom of Information

You can find here the full text of my latest work on algorithms and automated decision making with a focus on intellectual property, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and freedom of information.

Nowadays algorithms can decide if one can get a loan, is allowed to cross a border, or must go to prison. Artificial intelligence techniques (natural language processing and machine learning in the first place) enable private and public decision-makers to analyse big data in order to build profiles, which are used to make decisions in an automated way.

This work presents ten arguments against algorithmic decision-making. These revolve around the concepts of ubiquitous discretionary interpretation, holistic intuition, algorithmic bias, the three black boxes, psychology of conformity, power of sanctions, civilising force of hypocrisy, pluralism, empathy, and technocracy.

The lack of transparency of the algorithmic decision-making process does not stem merely from the characteristics of the relevant techniques used, which can make it impossible to access the rationale of the decision. It depends also on the abuse of and overlap between intellectual property rights (the “legal black box”). In the US, nearly half a million patented inventions concern algorithms; more than 67% of the algorithm-related patents were issued over the last ten years and the trend is increasing.

To counter the increased monopolisation of algorithms by means of intellectual property rights (with trade secrets leading the way), this paper presents three legal routes that enable citizens to ‘open’ the algorithms.

First, copyright and patent exceptions, as well as trade secrets are discussed.

Second, the GDPR is critically assessed. In principle, data controllers are not allowed to use algorithms to take decisions that have legal effects on the data subject’s life or similarly significantly affect them. However, when they are allowed to do so, the data subject still has the right to obtain human intervention, to express their point of view, as well as to contest the decision. Additionally, the data controller shall provide meaningful information about the logic involved in the algorithmic decision.

Third, this paper critically analyses the first known case of a court using the access right under the freedom of information regime to grant an injunction to release the source code of the computer program that implements an algorithm.

Only an integrated approach – which takes into account intellectual property, data protection, and freedom of information – may provide the citizen affected by an algorithmic decision of an effective remedy as required by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Recommended citation: Guido Noto La Diega, Against the Dehumanisation of Decision-Making – Algorithmic Decisions at the Crossroads of Intellectual Property, Data Protection, and Freedom of Information, 9 (2018) JIPITEC 3 para 1.

Published by guidonld

I am Associate Professor of Intellectual Property Law and Privacy Law at the University of Stirling, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, where I lead the Media Law and Information Technology Law courses. I am an expert in the legal issues of Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, and blockchain. Holder of a PhD (Unipa), a postdoc (QMUL), and an HEA Fellowship, I have a strong publication and bidding record and my works on Intellectual Property, Data Protection, Information Technology Law, Consumer Protection, and Human Rights have been cited by the EU Court of Justice’s Advocate General, the House of Lords, the European Commission, and the Council of Europe. Outside of the University of Stirling, I am Director of ‘Ital-IoT’ Centre of Multidisciplinary Research on the Internet of Things, Visiting Professor at the University of Macerata, Fellow of the Nexa Center for Internet and Society, Fellow of NINSO Northumbria Internet & Society Research Group, and I serve on the Executive Committee of the Society of Legal Scholars, the oldest and largest society of law academics in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Most of my publications can be downloaded for free on SSRN, ResearchGate, Academia.edu, and LawArXiv.

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