'Mutant Algorithms' and the Challenges of Responsible Data Science in Society

Online via Zoom
Thursday 15 October 2020 (18:00-19:00)

How did a ‘mutant algorithm’ throw the future of more than a quarter of a million young people awaiting their A-level results into the air this summer, creating turmoil, despair and justified anger? What does the future look like in a world where an individual’s future hinges upon the analysis of data and its outputs?

MSc Responsible Data Science

The A-level fiasco offers merely one example of the way in which contemporary societies are increasingly relying on algorithms and data to make decisions. Even more sophisticated algorithms, including those that utilise machine learning, often referred to as ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) are transforming almost every social sector: from transport, manufacturing and finance through to entertainment, education, health, shopping and dating with potentially dramatic implications for the way in which economic, political, and cultural power is accumulated, exercised and distributed.

Although these technologies offer myriad benefits largely in the form of efficiency and convenience, there is also public anxiety about the ‘rise of the machines’. In particular, there is growing recognition of the need and importance of exercising more meaningful oversight and supervision over these powerful technologies, and the need to work towards a more responsible, inclusive approach to their design, development and implementation.

Join our panel of legal, policy and governance experts as they discuss the challenges of responsible data science and ‘life at the coal face’ of policy in a dynamic and fast-changing field. Professor Karen Yeung, Interdisciplinary Professorial Fellow in Law, Ethics and Informatics at the University of Birmingham chairs the debate.

In raising public awareness about these important social and technical challenges, this event relates directly to the launch of the University of Birmingham’s MSc Responsible Data Science. This is a innovative new Masters-level programme offered jointly by the Birmingham Law School and School of Computer Science from September 2021. Developed in collaboration with Accenture and key industry partners, this new programme meets a growing demand for knowledge and skills at the intersection of data science and law.  Scholarships funded by the Office for Students provide financial support for underrepresented groups in this sector. For more information, visit our webpages www.birmingham.ac.uk/RDS


Professor Karen Yeung, Interdisciplinary Professorial Fellow in Law, Ethics and Informatics in the Birmingham Law School and School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham. Her research concerns the regulation and governance of, and through, new and emerging technologies, focusing on the legal, ethical, social and democratic implications of a suite of technologies associated with automation and the ‘computational turn’, including big data analytics, artificial intelligence (including various forms of machine learning), distributed ledger technologies (including blockchain) and robotics. She is actively involved in several technology policy and related initiatives at the national, European and international levels and she occupies a number of strategic and advisory roles for various non-profit organisations and research programmes concerned with responsible governance of technology, including membership of the EU’s High Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence and the Strategic Advisory Board for UKRI’s Trustworthy Autonomous Systems programme, Rapporteur for the Council of Europe’s Expert Committee on human rights dimensions of automated data processing and different forms of artificial intelligence (MSI-AUT) and Ethics Expert for the European Research Council.

Panel experts

Sophia Adams Bhatti, Head of Strategy and Policy at Wavelength. Sophia is a public policy expert, with 20 years’ experience across a number of sectors including AI, data governance and ethics, legal services, financial services, competition and consumer affairs, health care, and international diplomacy. Having worked for the likes of the FCA, CMA, OFT, Whitehall and the UN, she is an internationally respected expert and is in high demand as a speaker and as a contributor to international fora. Most recently, as the Director of Policy at the Law Society of England and Wales Sophia is credited with supercharging its role in legal technology and most notably was the creator of the ground breaking Commission on the use of AI in Criminal Justice.

John Groom is a a media and technology lawyer and Senior Associate in Baker McKenzie's IPTech team. His practice encompasses a broad range of both contentious and non-contentious aspects of IP, Technology and Commercial law, with a particular focus on copyright, digital media, and new technologies. John writes regularly on these topics and his chapter (with Ben Allgrove) “Enforcement in a digital context: intermediary liability” was published in Tanya Aplin (Ed.) Research Handbook on Intellectual Property and Digital Technologies in January 2020. In May 2020 John was elected to TechUK’s Data Analytics and AI Leadership Committee. John qualified in 2013 and is based in the London office, having spent 2018 in the San Francisco office. John is heavily involved in the firm’s tech-focussed pro bono work, as well as its social mobility initiatives.

Marion Oswald, Vice Chancellors Senior Fellow in Law at Northumberland University and Chair of the West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner and West Midlands Police data ethics committee. Marion researches the interaction between law and digital technology and has a particular interest in the use of information and innovative technology by criminal justice bodies and the wider public sector. Marion is a solicitor (non-practising), with previous experience in legal management roles within private practice, international companies and UK central government, including national security. She has worked extensively in the fields of data protection, freedom of information and information technology, having advised on a number of information technology implementations, data sharing projects and statutory reforms.

Anand Pandya, Legal Counsel, Technology and Innovation at Accenture. Anand is a technology lawyer responsible for advising on complex IT agreements. His current focus is driving the development and implementation of legal technology for Accenture’s global legal organisation. He was closely involved in the development of Accenture’s award-winning AI-driven contract analytics tool ALICE. Beginning his career in private practice, Anand also has over a decade of experience in IT consulting, software development and digital media having founded multiple technology businesses. He is also the co-founder of IP Harbour, a legal news website aimed at helping aspiring and junior lawyers break into technology and media industries.

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