Australians call for accountable AI

Friday, 28 August, 2020

Australians call for accountable AI

Research released by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reveals that 46% of Australians are not aware that the government makes important decisions about them using artificial intelligence (AI). Older people, those not in paid employment and lower-income earners were least aware that the government uses AI to make decisions; however, these groups were more likely to be affected by such decision-making.

Commissioned from essential research for the Commission’s Human Rights and Technology Project, the research highlights the strong public demand for AI to be used accountably and transparently, to protect human rights. Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow said new technology should not be ‘beta tested’ on vulnerable groups in society.

“Where AI is used in decision-making, the decisions can be harder to understand. It can also be more difficult to prove when such decisions are unlawful or unfair. We must learn lessons from robo-debt by ensuring that AI-informed decision-making is fair and accountable,” said Santow.

The research revealed that people want to see new technology being used in transparent, understandable ways, and want to be informed about it. “That is clearly not happening, because almost half of the people we polled didn’t even know it was happening,” said Santow.

Findings showed that Australians are not opposed to new technology, but they recognise that AI can make mistakes. Australians want laws that promote human rights, with accountability applied to AI and other new technologies. The majority of the people polled (88%) want to be able to understand how AI is used on them, by being given reasons or an explanation for AI-informed decisions that affect them. Where AI is used to make a decision that could be unlawful or wrong, 87% of respondents said it was ‘very important’ or ‘quite important’ to be able to appeal that decision.

Between 41% and 48% of participants said they would place greater trust in automated decisions by government if there were oversight measures put in place, including human checks, limitations on personal information sharing, and stronger laws to protect human rights.

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