A new report by a Parliamentary Committee on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) by the UK’s public sector has warned the Government is failing to be open about the technologies which have the potential to significantly impact citizens’ lives.
Ministers have been called bullish in their efforts to inject new technologies into the delivery of taxpayer-funded healthcare, with Minister for Health, Matt Hancock setting out a tech-fuelled vision of “preventative, predictive and personalised care” in 2018.
He called for the National Health Service (NHS) to support piping patient data to a new generation of “health-tech” apps and services.
Policing is another area where AI is being accelerated into Public Service delivery, with a number of police forces trialling facial recognition technology.
However, the report found the rush by cash-strapped Departments to tap AI ‘efficiencies’ risked glossing over a range of ethical concerns about the design and implementation of such automated systems.
It stated that the role of commercial companies in providing AI services to the public sector also raised additional ethical and legal questions.
The report, by the Parliamentary Committee on Standards in Public Life, warned that the technology challenged three key principles of service delivery: Openness, accountability and objectivity.
“Under the principle of openness, a current lack of information about Government use of AI risks undermining transparency,” the committee stated.
“Under the principle of accountability, there are three risks: AI may obscure the chain of organisational accountability; undermine the attribution of responsibility for key decisions made by public officials, and inhibit public officials from providing meaningful explanations for decisions reached by AI.”
It stated that under the principle of objectivity, the prevalence of data bias risked embedding and amplifying discrimination in everyday public sector practice.
“This review found that the Government is failing on openness.”
“Public sector organisations are not sufficiently transparent about their use of AI and it is too difficult to find out where machine learning is currently being used in Government,” the committee stated.
London, 12 February 2020