Umetna inteligenca in spodkopavanje temeljev demokracije

Zelo dober članek v Foreign Policy, ki na primeru danskega sistema socialnih transferjev kaže, kako lahko aplikacija algoritmov (za ugotavljanje upravičenosti do transferjev in potencialnih zlorab teh transferjev) spodkopava temelje demokracije in se sprevrže v sistem kontrole nad državljani.

Yet the idea of legal constraint is increasingly difficult to reconcile with the revolution promised by artificial intelligence and machine learning—specifically, those technologies’ promises of vast social benefits in exchange for unconstrained access to data and lack of adequate regulation on what can be done with it. Algorithms hold the allure of providing wider-ranging benefits to welfare states, and of delivering these benefits more efficiently.

Such improvements in governance are undeniably enticing. What should concern us, however, is that the means of achieving them are not liberal. There are now growing indications that the West is slouching toward rule by algorithm—a brave new world in which vast fields of human life will be governed by digital code both invisible and unintelligible to human beings, with significant political power placed beyond individual resistance and legal challenge. Liberal democracies are already initiating this quiet, technologically enabled revolution, even as it undermines their own social foundation.

Consider the case of Denmark. The country currently leads the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law ranking, not least because of its well-administered welfare state. But the country does not appear to fully understand the risks involved in enhancing that welfare state through artificial intelligence applications. The municipality of Gladsaxe in Copenhagen, for example, has quietly been experimenting with a system that would use algorithms to identify children at risk of abuse, allowing authorities to target the flagged families for early intervention that could ultimately result in forced removals.

The children would be targeted based on specially designed algorithms tasked with crunching the information already gathered by the Danish government and linked to the personal identification number that is assigned to all Danes at birth. This information includes health records, employment information, and much more.

From the Danish government’s perspective, the child-welfare algorithm proposal is merely an extension of the systems it already has in place to detect social fraud and abuse. Benefits and entitlements covering millions of Danes have long been handled by a centralized agency (Udbetaling Danmark), and based on the vast amounts of personal data gathered and processed by this agency, algorithms create so-called puzzlement lists identifying suspicious patterns that may suggest fraud or abuse. These lists can then be acted on by the “control units” operated by many municipalities to investigate those suspected of receiving benefits to which they are not entitled. The data may include information on spouses and children, as well as information from financial institutions.

These practices might seem both well intended and largely benign. After all, a universal welfare state cannot function if the trust of those who contribute to it breaks down due to systematic freeriding and abuse. And in the prototype being developed in Gladsaxe, the application of big data and algorithmic processing seems to be perfectly virtuous, aimed as it is at upholding the core human rights of vulnerable children.

But the potential for mission creep is abundantly clear. Udbetaling Danmark is a case in point: The agency’s powers and its access to data have been steadily expanded over the years. A recent proposal even aimed at providing this program leviathan access to the electricity use of Danish households to better identify people who have registered a false address to qualify for extra benefits. The Danish government has also used a loophole in Europe’s new digital data rules to allow public authorities to use data gathered under one pretext for entirely different purposes.

And yet the perils of such programs are less understood and discussed than the benefits. Part of the reason may be that the West’s embrace of public-service algorithms are byproducts of lofty and genuinely beneficial initiatives aimed at better governance. But these externalities are also beneficial for those in power in creating a parallel form of governing alongside more familiar tools of legislation and policy-setting. And the opacity of the algorithms’ power means that it isn’t easy to determine when algorithmic governance stops serving the common good and instead becomes the servant of the powers that be. This will inevitably take a toll on privacy, family life, and free speech, as individuals will be unsure when their personal actions may come under the radar of the government.

Such government algorithms also weaken public accountability over the government. Danish citizens have not been asked to give specific consent to the massive data processing already underway. They are not informed if they are placed on “puzzlement lists,” nor whether it is possible to legally challenge one’s designation. And nobody outside the municipal government of Gladsaxe knows exactly how its algorithm would even identify children at risk.

Vir: Foreign Policy

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