AI, machine learning and personal data

Jo Pedder at the Information Commissioner’s Office Blog: “Today sees the publication of the ICO’s updated paper on big data and data protection.

But why now? What’s changed in the two and a half years since we first visited this topic? Well, quite a lot actually:

  • big data is becoming the norm for many organisations, using it to profile people and inform their decision-making processes, whether that’s to determine your car insurance premium or to accept/reject your job application;
  • artificial intelligence (AI) is stepping out of the world of science-fiction and into real life, providing the ‘thinking’ power behind virtual personal assistants and smart cars; and
  • machine learning algorithms are discovering patterns in data that traditional data analysis couldn’t hope to find, helping to detect fraud and diagnose diseases.

The complexity and opacity of these types of processing operations mean that it’s often hard to know what’s going on behind the scenes. This can be problematic when personal data is involved, especially when decisions are made that have significant effects on people’s lives. The combination of these factors has led some to call for new regulation of big data, AI and machine learning, to increase transparency and ensure accountability.

In our view though, whilst the means by which the processing of personal data are changing, the underlying issues remain the same. Are people being treated fairly? Are decisions accurate and free from bias? Is there a legal basis for the processing? These are issues that the ICO has been addressing for many years, through oversight of existing European data protection legislation….(More)”