Exploring Police Perspectives on Algorithmic Transparency: A Qualitative Analysis of Police Interviews in the UK

Miri Zilka, Carolyn Ashurst, Luke Chambers, Ellen P. Goodmann, Pamela Ugwudike, Marion Oswald

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The UK Government’s ‘Algorithmic Transparency Recording Standard’ is intended to provide a standardised way for public bodies and government departments to provide information about how algorithmic tools are being used. To explore the implications of police use of the Standard, we conducted semi-structured interviews with respondents from across UK policing and commercial bodies involved in policing technologies. Our aim was to identify rewards, risks, challenges for the police, and areas where the Standard could be improved. We find that algorithmic transparency is both achievable for policing, and could bring significant rewards. If the Standard became an integral part of an effort to drive reflective practice across the development and deployment of algorithmic technology, it could help police forces to learn from each other, facilitate good policy choices around technology, and decrease wasted costs. However, participants reported notable concerns, including misperception of the dangers of policing technology, and a worry that the Standard will become an administrative burden rather than a benefit for policing or the public. For successful incorporation, we highlight the need to 1) clearly define what is covered by the Standard, 2) provide suitable exemptions for sensitive contexts and tradecraft, 3) ensure that forces have the resources and ability to comply with the Standard, and 4) address supplier responsibilities regarding transparency in procurement contracts. We suggest that future evaluation of the Standard is needed to investigate: a) whether the Transparency Reports created using the Standard meet the needs of intended users, including impacted individuals, advocacy groups, researchers, and legal and policy advisers, b) whether the Standard contributes to an improvement in the quality of policing technology, and c) whether the Standard enables the assessment of the lawfulness of technology used by the police.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEAAMO '23: Proceedings of the 3rd ACM Conference on Equity and Access in Algorithms, Mechanisms, and Optimization
Place of PublicationNew York, US
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9798400703812
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2023
EventACM Conference on Equity and Access in Algorithms, Mechanisms, and Optimization 2023 - Boston, United States
Duration: 30 Oct 20231 Nov 2023


ConferenceACM Conference on Equity and Access in Algorithms, Mechanisms, and Optimization 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address

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