ICO appoints researcher to develop method for auditing algorithms

The Information Commissioner’s Office has appointed its first Postdoctoral Research Fellow in artificial intelligence.

Dr Reuben Binns, an influential figure in the emerging AI and data protection policy community, is joining the ICO on a fixed term fellowship. During his two-year term, he will research and investigate a framework for auditing algorithms and conduct further in-depth research activities in AI and machine learning.

“Artificial intelligence is an exciting area that has great potential,” said Simon McDougall, the ICO’s executive director for technology, policy and innovation.

“However, like all new technologies, it also has the potential to be misused, and there is understandable anxiety amongst the public around how decisions using AI are being made. The ICO is committed to remaining engaged with emerging technologies, and Reuben’s work will deepen our understanding of this complex area.”

Dr Binns is currently a researcher in Computer Science at the University of Oxford where his research has explored the technical, legal and ethical aspects of privacy, machine learning, and decentralised systems. He has previously worked as an advisor on personal data and algorithmic decision-making for organisations in the public and private sector, and for the European Commission.

His recent work has focused on making transparent third-party tracking on the web, mobile and Internet-of-Things devices; and exploring legal, technical and human-computer interaction challenges relating to transparency, fairness and accountability in machine learning.

Technology is a key area for the ICO, said a spokesperson. In the past year the data protection regulator has published its first technology strategy, outlining how it will adapt to technological change as it impacts information rights, and how it will plan ahead for the arrival of new technologies, as well as adding cyber incidents as a sixth strategic goal in its ‘Information Rights Strategic Plan’.