Professor Karen Yeung

Professor Karen Yeung

Birmingham Law School
Interdisciplinary Professorial Fellow in Law, Ethics and Informatics

Contact details

Birmingham Law School
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Karen Yeung is Interdisciplinary Professorial Fellow in Law, Ethics and Informatics at the University of Birmingham, based in Birmingham Law School and the School of Computer Science. She has been a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Melbourne Law School since 2016. 

Karen is actively involved in several technology policy and related initiatives in the UK and worldwide, including those concerned with the governance of AI, one of her key research interests.  In particular, she is a member of the EU’s High Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (since June 2018) and a Member and 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 special adviser to Council of Europe's European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC), Working Group of Experts on AI and the Criminal Law (from September 2019).

Her former policy roles include Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Genome Editing and Human Reproduction (2016-2018) which lead to the publication of the Nuffield Council of Bioethics report, Genome Editing and Human Reproduction,  and during that time she was also a member of the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Biotechnology. She also acted as ethics advisor and member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Digital Medicine for the Topol Independent Technology Review for the NHS between 2018 and 2019, which produced the Topol Review, ‘Preparing the Healthcare Workforce to Deliver the Digital Future’ (February 2019) and as a former member of the Royal Society-British Academy Working Group on Data Governance, she was closely involved with the report and recommendations set out in its report,  Data management and use: Governance in the 21st Century (2017).

Her recent academic publications include Algorithmic Regulation (co-edited with Martin Lodge, Oxford University Press (2019 in press)) and  The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology (co-edited with Roger Brownsword and Eloise Scotford) in 2017. She is admitted to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria (Australia), having completed a brief stint in professional legal practice. Karen is on the editorial boards of Big Data & Society and Public Law.

As an Interdisciplinary Chair, she is keen to foster collaboration between academics from across a range of disciplines, and to initiate dialogue between academics and policy-makers across various disciplines concerned with examining the social, legal, democratic and ethical implications of technological development, and in seeking to promote informed, inclusive and human-centred technology policy-making and implementation.  

She is currently principal investigator on several projects from various funding sources including a 4-year award from VW Stiftung’s project Deciding about, by, and together with algorithmic decision making systems (together with 4 German collaborators from computer science, neuropsychology, law and political science), a Wellcome Trust funded project seeking to investigate the legal, ethical, technical and governance challenges associated with utilising blockchain in healthcare contexts, and as Rapporteur and author of the Council of Europe MSI-AUT’s Study on the Implications of Advanced Digital Technologies (including AI systems) within a Human Rights Framework for the Concept of Responsibility Within a Human Rights Framework. 


  • Doctor of Philosophy in Law (D Phil), Oxford University
  • Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL), Oxford University
  • Bachelor of Laws (LLB (Hons)), The University of Melbourne, Australia.
  • Bachelor of Commerce (BComm), The University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Admitted to practice as a Barrister & Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia.


Karen came to the United Kingdom from Australia in 1993 as a Rhodes Scholar to read for the Bachelor of Civil Law at Oxford University, after completing a combined Law/Commerce degree at the University of Melbourne. She spent ten years as a University Lecturer at Oxford University and as a Fellow of St Anne’s College, where she wrote her D Phil, before taking up a Chair in Law at King’s College London in September 2006 to help establish the Centre for Technology, Law & Society (‘TELOS’), occupying the role of Director since 2012 until the end of 2017.å

Postgraduate supervision

Karen welcomes exceptional PhD students interested in critically examining the legal, democratic and ethical dimensions of a suite of technologies associated with networked computational systems, including big data analytics, artificial intelligence (including various forms of machine learning), distributed ledgers (including blockchain) and robotics.  

Karen also welcomes outstanding PhD students and early career academics from other Universities who are interested in visiting the University on submission of a CV and suitable research project proposal (interested applications should send their request to visit to

Find out more - our PhD Law  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


Karen’s research expertise lies in the regulation and governance of, and through, new and emerging technologies.  Her work has been at the forefront of nurturing ‘law, regulation and technology’ as a sub-field of legal and interdisciplinary scholarship.

Karen’s recent and on-going work focuses 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. The overarching aim of her research is to enrich our understanding of the capacity and potential of these technologies to inform decision-making and to influence and co-ordinate individual and collective behaviour across a wide range of policy domains through the broad lenses of ‘Algorithmic Regulation’ and ‘Algorithmic Accountability’. She is currently undertaking series of inquiries which, taken together, seek to explore their implications for normative values associated with liberal constitutional democracies, including:

  • democracy and democratic governance, including the need for public participation in their design, construction and implementation, and the value weightings and trade-offs that are hard-wired into system development and operation;
  • constitutional values, including transparency, accountability, due process, proportionality and the rule of law;
  • individual rights, freedom, autonomy and human dignity;
  • equality, community, social solidarity and distributive justice; and
  • the allocation of decision-making authority, responsibility and liability between humans and machines.

In pursuing these aims, Karen draw upon a broad range of disciplinary perspectives from the humanities, social sciences (and increasingly, the computer sciences), including law, applied ethics (professional ethics, bioethics, information ethics, machine ethics and robot ethics), political theory, political science, regulatory governance studies, the philosophy of technology, the sociology of science (including STS and innovation studies) and criminology. Her most recent work has involved collaborations with AI researchers and data and computer scientists and she has recently been awarded a Wellcome Trust Seed Award in the Social Sciences to lead an interdisciplinary project which seeks to map the legal, ethical, technical and governance challenges associated with regulating healthcare through blockchain.



Last 10 years only

  • Algorithmic Regulation (2019) jointly edited with Martin Lodge, Oxford University Press, forthcoming
  • The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology (2017). Jointly edited with Roger Brownsword, Eloise Scotford, Oxford University Press.
  • Regulating Technologies: Legal Futures, Regulatory Frames and Technological Fixes (2008).  Jointly edited with Roger Brownsword: Hart Publishing.
  • An Introduction to Law and Regulation (2007) Jointly authored with Bronwen Morgan, Cambridge University Press, Law In Context series.
  • Securing Compliance (2004) Hart Publishing 

Reports and grey literature

Articles in peer-review journals

Last 10 years only

  • K Yeung and D Galindo '"Why do public blockchains need formal and effective internal governance mechanisms?" (2019) European Journal of Risk & Regulation, forthcoming.
  • ‘Regulation by Blockchain: The Emerging Battle for Supremacy between the Code of Law and Code as Law (2019) Modern Law Review 82: 207-239
  • ‘Five Fears about Mass Predictive Personalisation in an Age of Surveillance Capitalism’ (2018) International Data Privacy Law 8: 258-269
  • 'Big Data and Personalized Price Discrimination in EU Competition Law' (2017) Yearbook of European Law 1-66; (co-authored with Chris Townley and Eric Morrison)
  • 'Algorithmic Regulation: A Critical Interrogation' (2018) Regulation & Governance 4: 505-523.
  • 'Hypernudge: Big Data as a Mode of Regulation by Design', (2017) Information, Communication & Society 20: 118-136 (Special Issue on the Social Power of Algorithms)
  • 'The Forms and Limits of Choice Architecture as a Tool of Government' (2016) Law & Policy 38: 186-210 (Special Issue on Nudge)
  • “Political Theory, Reflective Equilibrium and the Project of Legitimating Public Health Interventions: A Reply to Latham’ (2016) Public Health Ethics 9: 153-154; Special issue on republicanism and health;
  • 'How Can the Criminal Law Support the Provision of Quality in Healthcare?' (2014) British Medical Journal (Quality and Safety) 23: 519-524 (jointly authored with Jeremy Horder QC);
  • 'Better Regulation, Administrative Sanctions and Constitutional Values' (2013) Legal Studies 33: 312-339
  • 'Nudge as Fudge' (2012) Modern Law Review 75: 122-148
  • 'Regulating Assisted Dying' (2012) King’s Law Journal 23: 163-179
  • 'Can We Employ Design-Based Regulation While Avoiding Brave New World?' (2011) Journal of Law, Innovation and Technology 3: 1-30
  • 'Why is UK medicine no longer a self-regulating profession: The role of scandals involving ‘bad apple’ doctors' (2011) Social Science and Medicine 74:1-8 (with M Dixon-Woods and C Bosk)
  • 'Design-based regulation and patient safety: a regulatory studies perspective' (2010) 71 Social Science and Medicine, 502-509 (with M Dixon-Woods)
  • 'Modernising medical regulation: where are we now?' (2010) Journal of Health Organization and Management 24: 540-555 (with J Waring and M Dixon-Woods)
  • 'Presentational Management and the Pursuit of Regulatory Legitimacy: A Comparative Study of Competition and Consumer Regulators in the UK and Australia' (2008) Public Administration 274-294;

Chapters in edited books

  • K Yeung, A Howes and G Pogrebna ‘Human Rights Centred-Design, Deliberation and Oversight: An End to Ethics Washing’ in M Dubber and F Pasquale (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of AI Ethics (2019) Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
  • K Yeung and A Weller, (2019). How is ‘transparency’ understood by legal scholars and the machine learning community? Being Profiling. Cogitas Ergo Sum. M. Hildebradt (ed), Amsterdam University Press, forthcoming
  • K Yeung, 'Blockchain, Transactional Security and the Promise of Automated Law Enforcement: The Withering of Freedom under Law? (2017) in Otto, P and Graffe, E (eds.) 3TH1CS - The reinvention of ethics in the digital age? iRights.Media, Berlin.
  • R Brownsword, E Scotford and K Yeung, ‘Law, Regulation and Technology: The field, the frame and the focus.’ (2017) in R Brownsword, E Scotford and K Yeung (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press
  • K Yeung, ‘Are human biomedical interventions legitimate regulatory instruments?’ (2017) in R Brownsword, E Scotford and K Yeung (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press
  • K Yeung, ‘Design for Regulation.; 2015. In Handbook of Ethics, Values and Technological Design, edited by M J van den Hoven, P E Vermaas and I van de Poel. Dordecht: Springer
  • K Yeung, ‘The Regulatory State.’ 2011. In The Oxford Handbook of Regulation, edited by R Baldwin, M Cave and M Lodge.  New York: Oxford Univ. Press 64-81
  • K Yeung, ‘Towards an Understanding of Regulation by Design.’ 2008. In Regulating Technologies: Legal Futures, Regulatory Frames and Technological Fixes, edited by R Brownsword and K Yeung. Oxford: Hart Publishing, Oxford at 79-107
  • K Yeung, ‘Regulatory Agencies.’ 2008. In The Oxford Companion to Law, edited by P Cane and J Howse, Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press

Note: Many of the pre-publication versions of these papers are available via SSRN or ResearchGate

Multimedia links

  • The World Economic Forum: Regulation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution: How can regulators assess the risks and mitigate them sensibly without stifling the enormous potential benefits that Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies have to offer? In episode 5 of ‘Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, we examine some of the emerging tools regulators are developing to blunt the horns of this particular dilemma. We are joined by a number of academics, including Karen Yeung: Podcast on spotify.
  • Hypernudge Podcast interview with Dr John Danaher discussing her concept of ‘hypernudging’ and how it applies to the debate about algorithmic governance.
  • Editing the embryo: removing harmful gene mutations - Science Weekly podcast Hannah Devlin explores the science and ethics behind a landmark study that successfully edited the genomes of developing embryos. How did they do it? What did they hope to achieve? And, further down the line, what kind of doors might research like this open? 
  • Law and a Decade of Technological Change Podcast (King's College London)
  • The ethics and implications of regulating robots (King's College London) In 2017 European lawmakers called for legislation and an ethical framework to regulate robots, rejecting a ‘robot tax’ for owners which would have funded support for or retraining of people put out of their job by robots.  In this podcast, Dr Matthew Howard, Informatics, and Professor Karen Yeung, Law, discuss the decision.
  • What happens to our data? Artificial intelligence and our lives (King’s College London)Professor Yeung is working on trying to understand the consequences of the rise of algorithmic power, which she hopes will ultimately lead to effective and legitimate governance mechanisms to secure algorithmic accountability.  Devising solutions, however is still in early stages according to Professor Yeung. The challenge is to come up with effective and legitimate mechanisms that will properly govern these systems, whilst allowing us to reap the benefits of our ever-advancing technology. This, she says, must include mechanisms that will extend to the practices and policies of the global corporations who collect and currently govern our data: Video clip

View all publications in research portal


  • Human rights dimensions of automated data processing and different forms of artificial intelligence 
  • Responsible AI 
  • Genome editing and human reproduction
  • The opportunities AI presents 
  • Data governance
  • The social, legal, democratic and ethical implications of technological development
  • Governance of emerging technologies
  • The legal and ethical governance of AI systems (including robotic systems)
  • The social, legal, democratic and ethical implications of technological development