Algorithm Workshop February 2017

The workshop, which was attended by a sell out audience drawn from law, industry and technology, considered the legal, social and technical dimensions of algorithms and their role in governance. As our everyday lives are more and more determined by decisions made by automated algorithmic processes, the status of algorithms  and how they can be regulated , queried and countermanded,  becomes evermore important.  To give just a few examples, algorithms now often determine how we are assessed as risks for policing and terrorism surveillance: how we get hired, fired and promoted; and what news and political opinion we are exposed to.  Both personal and societal welfare   and arguably, the future of democracy itself, thus depend on being able to regulate and make accountable the algorithm society. In particular a major current question is if a right to explanation of what an algorithm has decided exists in data protection law?

After introductory talks on law, policy and technology , the afternoon session discuss possible remedies to the problems of algorithmic governance in particular domain areas.  These included

  • price discrimination
  • access to political speech on social networks ( the "fake news" and "filter bubble " problems)
  • search engine algorithms

Remedies examined  were drawn from inter alia, EU data protection law, competition law, broadcasting  and media law and journalistic ethics. 

The next step will be to consider what avenues of research arising to pursues in future collaborative grants.

UnBias Project review of the workshop


1230 hours          Coffee, tea and biscuits


1300 hours          Introduction to algorithms and their place in governance

Michael Veale, UCL

1335 hours          Law and algorithmic governance —some war stories and some solutions?

Lilian Edwards, University of Strathclyde

1410 hours          Algorithms—a technical perspective—are they really a black box?

Ansgar Koene, Horizon/Edinburgh/Oxford Unbias People

1440 hours          Questions

1450 hours          Coffee , tea and afternoon cakes


1505 hours          Algorithms, media governance and political disinformation

Lorna Woods, Essex

Rachel Craufurd –Smith, Edinburgh

1545 hours          Algorithmic pricing and employment discrimination

Freddie Zuiderveen Borgesius, IViR (NL) John Gannon, Leeds

1625 hours          Algorithms and search engines

Thomas Hoppner, Partner at Hausfeld & Professor of Law at TH Wildau

1645 hours          Questions

1700 hours          Panel—Conclusions and next steps

(Chair) Lilian Edwards, University of Strathclyde

Derek McAuley, Horizon, Nottingham University

Trevor Callaghan, Lead Counsel, Deep Mind

James Stewart, ISSTI, University of Edinburgh