Blog on using algorithms for employment decisions published by the ICO


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The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has published a blog which highlights key points that organisations should consider before implementing algorithms for hiring purposes.

The blog makes the point that, as a result of many people applying for limited jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers may be using algorithms to ease the burden on HR departments.

The ICO notes that as bias and discrimination are a problem in human decision-making, they are also a problem in decision-making based on algorithms.  This is because the training data that is fed into AI systems has been influenced by the results of human decision-making and so continues human prejudices.  As a result the ICO states that employers need to assess, as part of a data protection impact assessment (DPIA), whether using algorithms is a necessary and proportionate solution to a problem.  Where it is deemed that they are employers should determine and document how they will mitigate bias and discrimination and put in place appropriate safeguards and technical measures in order to achieve this.

The ICO also states that employers must use appropriate technical and organisational measures to prevent discrimination when processing personal data for profiling and automated decision-making.  They should also bear in mind that solely automated decision for private sector hiring purposes are likely to be illegal under the GDPR.   The ICO emphasises that while a DPIA can assess the risk of discrimination and mitigate it, it may not eliminate the risk completely.  An employer may be compliance with data protection law, but that does not necessarily mean that they will be compliant with equality law.

The ICO blog concedes that, although algorithms are potentially problematic, they do have the capacity to address the problems of bias and discrimination and can improve employers' decision-making.

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