Public administrations have always dealt with large volumes of data. They are now increasingly adopting sophisticated big data technologies to further leverage the data. Data provided by citizens, observed by sensors, deduced and inferred from diverse data sets are being used for decision making and making (pre-emptive) predictions about the behaviour of citizens and groups of citizens. The data and algorithms are not neutral nor flawless, but contain biases and may induce harms to individuals, such as discrimination, loss of autonomy, infringing their privacy. Big data decision making systems are usually opaque. Providing transparency about input, process, and even outcomes may be difficult due to the complexity inherent to the technology and even undesirable because it could affect the effectiveness of the system. This lack of transparency is at odds with the Rule of Law, which requires transparency and accountability of government action. What transparency should entail in the context of predictive analytics, however, is unclear. This short article points out some of the issues at stake.
- big data
- public administration