Understanding Society

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TILT seminar by Maja Brkan

Do Algorithms Rule the World? Algorithmic Decision-Making and the Right to Explanation in the GDPR.


Maja Brkan is Assistant Professor of European Union Law at Maastricht University since 2013 where she is responsible for coordinating the core course on EU institutions and for supervising students researching on data privacy aspects of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. She is Associate Director of the Maastricht Centre for European Law, a member of the European Centre on Privacy and Cybersecurity (ECPC), holds a position of Associate Editor of the European Data Protection Law Review and regularly presents her work at international conferences in Europe and in the US. She has published widely on privacy and data protection in peer-reviewed journals. She is the author of an award-winning PhD thesis in EU law and holds a prestigious Diploma of the Academy of European Law from the European University Institute. Before moving to Maastricht, she worked as a legal advisor (référéndaire) at the Court of Justice of the EU (2007-2013). Under her supervision, students achieved first and second place at the widely recognized European Law Moot Court Competition.


The purpose of this paper is to analyze the rules of the General Data Protection Regulation and of the and the Directive on Data Protection in Criminal Matters on automated decision making in the age of Big Data and to explore how to ensure transparency of such decisions, in particular those taken with the help of algorithms. Both legal acts impose limitations on automated individual decision-making, including profiling. While these limitations of automated decisions might come across as a forceful fortress strongly protecting individuals and potentially even hampering the future development of AI in decision making, the relevant provisions nevertheless contain numerous exceptions allowing for such decisions. Moreover, in case of automated decisions involving personal data of the data subject, the GDPR obliges the controller to provide the data subject with ‘meaningful information about the logic involved’ (Articles 13(2)(f) and 14(2)(g)), thus raising the much-debated question whether the data subject should be granted a right to explanation of the automated decision. While such a right would in principle fit well within the broader framework of GDPR’s quest for a high level of transparency, it also raises several queries: What exactly needs to be revealed to the data subject? How can an algorithm-based decision be explained? Apart from technical obstacles, we are facing also intellectual property obstacles and implementation obstacles to this ‘algorithmic transparency’. The paper seeks to find ways how to reconcile the potential recognition of the right to explanation with the transparency requirement.

Location: M 1003
Registration: g.vdnmaagdenberg@tilburguniversity.edu

When: 17 April 2018 12:00

End date: 17 April 2018 13:30