Professor Karen Yeung

Professor Karen Yeung

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

Contact details

Address
Birmingham Law School
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT
UK

Karen Yeung joined Birmingham Law School and the University of Birmingham’s School of Computer Science as Interdisciplinary Professorial Fellow in Law, Ethics and Informatics in January 2018. 

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 involved in the UN Global Judicial Integrity Network and is a former member of both the EU’s High Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (2018-2020) and the Council of Europe’s Expert Committee on human rights dimensions of automated data processing and different forms of artificial intelligence (MSI-AUT) (2018-2020). As rapporteur for the Council of Europe’s MSI-AUT expert committee, she undertook a 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 (2019) which provides a critical overview of the characteristics of machine learning systems that make them prone to generating unintended adverse impacts to individuals and society, raising important questions concerning responsibility for those impacts.

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).

Her recent academic publications include Algorithmic Regulation (co-edited with Martin Lodge, Oxford University Press) in 2019 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, Modern Law Review, Public Law, Technology and Regulation and Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Research in Computational Law.

She is an Honorary Professor at Melbourne Law School, having previously served as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow (from 2016-2020). Her current roles include Ethics Advisor for the European Research Council (since 2019) and she is a member of the Strategic Advisory Board for UKRI’s Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Programme.

Karen is particularly excited about the launch of the University’s MSc in Responsible Data Science, playing a leading role in its development in association with Accenture. The programme is intended to training law graduates in the basics of data science while equipping them with the knowledge and critical capacities needed to ensure the responsible development, deployment and governance of data-driven technologies. Launching in September 2021, this M Sc programme is supported by a number of scholarships funded by the Office for Students aimed at enhancing diversity and inclusivity in the AI sector. 

As an interdisciplinary professor, 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. 

Karen is currently a Principal Investigator on several projects from various funding sources including the FATAL4JUSTICE? project, funded by a 4-year award from VW Stiftung’s project (together with 4 German collaborators from computer science, neuropsychology, law and political science) and Principal Investigator for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making in Society, funded by the Australian Research Council. Previous awards include a Wellcome Trust funded project seeking to investigate the legal, ethical, technical and governance challenges associated with utilising blockchain in healthcare contexts.

Qualifications

  • 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.

Biography

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.

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 Ph D 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 PA-IPFLawandEthics@contacts.bham.ac.uk).


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

Research

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.

Publications

Highlight publications

Yeung, K & Lodge, M (eds) 2019, Algorithmic Regulation. Oxford University Press.

Yeung, K 2019, 'Regulation by blockchain: the emerging battle for supremacy between the code of law and code as law', Modern Law Review, vol. 82, no. 2, pp. 207-239. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2230.12399

Yeung, K 2018, 'Algorithmic regulation: a critical interrogation', Regulation & Governance, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 505-523. https://doi.org/10.1111/rego.12158

Yeung, K 2016, 'Hypernudge: Big Data as a mode of regulation by design', Information, Communication and Society, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 118-136. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2016.1186713

Yeung, K, Howes, A & Pogrebna, G 2020, AI Governance by Human Rights Centred-Design, Deliberation and Oversight: An End to Ethics Washing. in The Oxford Handbook of Ethics of AI. Oxford University Press.

Recent publications

Article

Ulbricht, L & Yeung, K 2021, 'Algorithmic regulation: a maturing concept for investigating regulation of and through algorithms', Regulation & Governance. https://doi.org/10.1111/rego.12437

Yeung, K & Lee A, B 2021, 'Demystifying the modernized European data protection regime: cross-disciplinary insights from legal and regulatory governance scholarship', Regulation & Governance. https://doi.org/10.1111/rego.12401

Timothy, E & Yeung, K 2021, 'The death of law? Computationally personalised norms and the rule of law', University of Toronto Law Journal.

Yeung, K 2021, 'What the healthcare sector’s experience of blockchain reveals about its real transformative potential: a cross-disciplinary analysis', Journal of Medical Internet Research. https://doi.org/10.2196/24109

Yeung, K 2020, 'INTRODUCTORY NOTE TO RECOMMENDATION OF THE COUNCIL ON ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (OECD)', American Journal of International Law, vol. 59, no. 1. <https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-legal-materials/article/recommendation-of-the-council-on-artificial-intelligence-oecd/EC74B60333EEB276393DB53307519B19>

Harkens, A, Yeung, K, Achtziger, A, Felfel, J, Krafft, T, Koenig, P, Schmees, J, Schultz, W, Wenzelburger, G & Zweig , K 2020, 'The Rise of AI-based Decision-Making Tools in the Criminal Justice: Implications for Judicial Integrity', Commonwealth Judicial Journal , vol. 25, no. 2.

Yeung, K & Galindo Chacon, D 2019, 'Why do public blockchains need formal and effective internal governance mechanisms?', European Journal of Risk Regulation, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 359-375. https://doi.org/10.1017/err.2019.42

Yeung, K 2018, 'Five fears about mass predictive personalisation in an age of surveillance capitalism', International Data Privacy Law, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 258-269. https://doi.org/10.1093/idpl/ipy020

Townley, CP, Yeung, K & Morrison, E 2017, 'Big Data and Personalised Price Discrimination in EU Competition Law', Yearbook of European Law, vol. 36, pp. 683–748. https://doi.org/10.1093/yel/yex015

Chapter

Yeung, K & Lodge, M 2019, Algorithmic regulation: an introduction. in K Yeung & M Lodge (eds), Algorithmic Regulation. Oxford University Press, pp. 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198838494.003.0001

Yeung, K 2019, Why worry about decision-making by machine? in K Yeung & M Lodge (eds), Algorithmic Regulation. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198838494.003.0002

Yeung, K 2017, Are Biomedical Interventions Legitimate Regulatory Policy Instruments? in The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology. Oxford University Press.

Scotford, E, Brownsword, R & Yeung, K 2017, Law, Regulation and Technology: the Field, Frame and Focal Questions. in The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology. Oxford University Press.

Commissioned report

Yeung, K 2019, Responsibility and AI: Council of Europe Study DGI(2019)05. Council of Europe. <https://rm.coe.int/responsability-and-ai-en/168097d9c5>

Other contribution

Smuha, N, Ahmed-Rengers, E, Harkens, A, Li, W, Maclaren, J, Piselli, R & Yeung, K 2021, How the EU can achieve legally trustworthy AI: a response to the European Commission’s proposal for an Artificial Intelligence Act. SSRN.

View all publications in research portal

Expertise

  • 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