Public Administration and Computational Transparency in Algorithms - PACTA

PACTA is a collaboration between principal investigator Professor Henrik Palmer Olsen of iCourts and Thomas Troels Hildebrandt of the Department of Computer Science. It is funded by the Free Research Council and runs from January 1st, 2019 to December 31st, 2022.

Henrik Palmer Olsen

Thomas Troels Hildebrandt

The overall aim of PACTA is to contribute new, research-based knowledge about how algorithmic decision making can be implemented in public administration without undermining the legality of administrative decision-making processes or losing public trust in the authorities that use this technology.

Machine learning and associated technologies have progressed significantly over the last decade profoundly transforming our economy, our social relations, and our information retrieval practices. Now, these new technologies, with both their promise and their dangers, are being transferred into public administration in the form of algorithmic decision making (ADM). ADM is challenging traditional administrative practices by introducing an untested way of producing administrative decisions that have the ability affect the rights of individual citizens and questions the legality of the practice itself. PACTA investigates the fundamental problems relating to the interaction of legality in public administration and ADM. We do so by focusing on three areas of public administration that are already at the forefront of this development: 

a) tax administration,
b) commercial regulation, and
c) policing/criminal investigation.

To date, there is little to no research that explores where and how ADM is currently employed or how it is projected to be employed in the near future in Danish public administration. Likewise, little to no research exists on how such technology is developed, procured, applied, or supervised. Most significantly, there is no research into the impact of ADM on legality or public trust. The PACTA research team is cross-disciplinary, involving pioneering scholars from law (including postdoctoral researcher Jacob Livingston Slosser)  and computer science. In close collaboration, they set out to fill this gap by producing state-of-the-art research in what we term the school of digital legality. PACTA's goals are:

  • one, to establish the breadth and depth of Danish public administrations’ use (and projected use) of ADM;
  • two, to research the legality of ADM both theoretically as well as in actual implementation; and
  • three, to investigate how the use of ADM affects the relationship between citizens and their government.

Future research is likely to build on the results from PACTA. This may include: producing legal guidebooks for governments or private businesses seeking advice in developing ADM software for decision making in a legal context; creating new models for including the public in the design of technological solutions adopted by administrative bodies; or, combining the research on the public sector with that of similar issues emerging in the private sector.

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