Open Algorithms and the Law

September 16, 2016

Open Algorithms are becoming "a thing" and this new approach to applied math is transforming a entire set of legal issues.  MIT Media Lab research scientist and collaborator John Clippinger has demonstrated how open algorithms can be used to calculate identity proxy attributes as a way to afford individuals more privacy and personal control over data and individual identity and many other projects and initiatives around MIT are likewise exploring aspects of open alogorithms. In the private sector, Algorithmia is an open marketplace for algorithms in a range of domains.  

The research team has begun a scoping and exploratory evaluation of legal, policy and rule automation issues, options, problems and prospects arising from or related to OPAL. Human Dynamics Lab OPAL (Open Algorithms) project is a collaboration developed by a group of partners committed to leveraging the power of platforms, big data and advanced analytics for the public good in a privacy preserving, commercially sensible, stable, scalable, and sustainable manner.  

OPAL’s core will consist of an open suite of softwares and open algorithms providing access to statistical information extracted from anonymized, secured and formatted data. These algorithms, accessed by an API, will be run on OPAL servers of partner companies, behind their firewalls. The vision is to strengthen the accuracy, timeliness and reliability of key development indicators and statistics of relevance for an array of users. The project will start with APIs to access indicators such as population mobility, approximations of poverty indices, or literacy rate based on mobile data from telecom operators as well as a library of certified open algorithms to extract these indicators in a governed and trustworthy manner.  The OPAL project will also be used to engage with data providers, users and analysts at all stages of its development, to build local capacities and connections, and will help set-up local Data governance and Advisory boards to support its operation for the benefits of the populations.

As  part of collaoborations with law and technology groups including the new ABA Joint Working Group on Legal Analytics and UMKC Law School's Legal Technology Lab, over the next few months will explore legal and jurisprudential questions raised by the OPAL approach.  Engagement with business, legal and technology experts and stakeholders of this type typically consists of convened discussions and, subject to interest and support, may also include structured issue spotting exercises, cross-discimplinary scholarly or research resports and hypothesis driven rapid prototyping sprints to test assumptions or potential problems and value propasitions.