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Influence • Data governance • Completed

Legal and Regulatory Frameworks Governing the Use of Automated and Assisted Decision Making by Public Bodies

Lilian Edwards, Rebecca Williams, Reuben Binns  |  26th July 2021

This briefing paper was prepared in advance of a technical legal workshop: “Reforming the law around the use of automated and assisted decision making by public bodies”. The workshop was convened to support the Law Commission in developing priorities for its 14th Programme of Law Reform.

The authors highlight the urgent need for legal reform. They find that Automated Decision Making (“ADM”) and Assisted Decision Making (“ASDM”) systems are widely used across the public sector. As their use becomes more ubiquitous, the limitations of these systems and the harms that can arise from their deployment are increasingly well recognised.

Four key sources of law together comprise the legal frameworks governing the use of ADM and ASDM systems by public sector bodies:

  1. Data Protection law
  2. Equality law
  3. The common law of judicial review
  4. Contract law.

Overall, the authors argue that these frameworks are complex, piecemeal and insufficient to secure transparency. Existing law mitigates against the early identification and rectification of issues at the design stage- before harm occurs. The legal frameworks governing whether an ADM or ASDM system can or should be used are insufficient to guide good practice. There is an urgent need to clarify the processes through which public authorities can justify their use of ADM/ASDM systems on data protection, equality and public law grounds.

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