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Interaction needed between analog and digital administrative law

Published: 13th January 2020 Last updated: 17th March 2020

Automated decision-making is on the rise within government agencies. Is existing administrative law adequately equipped to respond to this situation? According to Tilburg University Professor of Administrative Law, Market and Data Johan Wolswinkel, interaction should take place between analog and digital administrative law, whereby traditional legal rules and principles are operationalized in a digital context. He will argue this in his inaugural lecture on Friday, January 17, 2020.

Well-known examples of automated decision-making by the government are AERIUS, the computer system used by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and Environmental Protection RIVM to determine nitrogen deposition, and Syri, the controversial model used for the detection of welfare fraud. What are the conditions for the adequate use of such decision-making? Is administrative law as it has developed in the analog era sufficiently equipped to adequately standardize the use of automated decision-making by the government?

Interaction

Professor Johan Wolswinkel proposes interaction between analog and digital administrative law, whereby traditional legal rules and principles are operationalized in a digital context. Conversely, he confronts new notions like ‘algorithmic accountability’ and ‘explainability’ with the familiar administrative law framework. In his view, it is specifically the concept of ‘algorithmic decision-making’ that may be able to bridge the gap between analog and digital administrative law, because administrative law also has a strongly algorithmic character outside the digital context and contains a number of building blocks to regulate automated decision-making. This perspective could even lead to a situation in which, in certain cases, there is no ban on algorithmic decision-making, as is currently the case for fully automated decision-making under the GDPR, but rather a right to algorithmic decision-making in order to prevent administrative arbitrariness.

According to Wolswinkel, lawyers in today’s digital age should not be too quick to hide behind the supposed black box of decision-making, but should instead further explore the characteristics of algorithms. This presents a challenge for administrative law research and education.

Seminar on Administrative Information Law in the Data Age

Prior to Wolswinkel’s inaugural speech, Tilburg Law School organizes a seminar (in Dutch) on new developments at the interface of public administration, information/data, and administrative law. The aim is to add a new contemporary dimension to ‘administrative information law'. For more information, see the website.

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