The Digital Transformation of Decision-Making is a faculty-wide initiative of the Amsterdam Law School, spearheaded by the the Institute for Information Law (IViR). It is one of the two themes (the other being Globalisation) that the University of Amsterdam has prioritised as part the legal research agenda 2019–2025 (‘Sectorplan rechtsgeleerdheid’; Digital Legal Studies) in the Netherlands.There are other affiliated projects that contribute to, and are part of, this growing initiative.
The Digital Transformation of Decision-Making refers to the way in which algorithms, data, and artificial intelligence (AI) affect markets and society, changing democratic processes, commercial value chains, public administration, and how public values are being realized – or challenged.
We will focus on automated decision-making (ADM) systems, which are set to replace human decision makers in a range of areas, from justice, to media, commerce, health and labor. ADM shifts decision-making power and infrastructure to entities that produce, collect and aggregate data, build models and optimize algorithms. This creates new dependencies on (commercial) technology companies that harbor the unique expertise, innovation and control over data needed for ADM, and new challenges for the governance of decision-making.
The overarching research question for the research initiative is: What are the normative implications of the shift from human to automated decision-making, focusing particularly on the role of platforms and data as key actors and commodity in this process.
The initiative consists of three interrelated research clusters:
- Realization of fundamental rights and public values. These are normative underpinnings of the initiative. The digitalization of decision-making affects democratic values and the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms. A key challenge is to ensure these values are upheld in the online environment.
- Private platform ordering. Platforms are key actors in the evolving ADM landscape and shape the way in which rights and values are conceptualized and realized. This challenges existing legal safeguards (such as freedom of expression, transparency and due process) and raises new questions about responsibilities.
- Data Governance. Platforms play a central role in ADM because of the wealth of data they capture from users. Data is at the heart of monetization and governance processes. Since data is both input, and output for ADM, the way in which control over, and access to data is regulated forms a critical element of the question how to govern platforms, and how to realize rights and values in an ADM context.
Research questions the initiative seeks to address include:
- How can public values and fundamental freedoms be reinterpreted and formalized into algorithmic design?
- How is automation affecting the way public values and fundamental rights are conceptualized and safeguarded in practice?
- How is law furthering the concept and power of online platforms, shaping the future trajectory of platform ordering in our societies?
- How should law respond to ADM in the context of platform ordering in order to safeguard democratic values, the rule of law, and fundamental rights,
- How should law, and regulatory frameworks for online platforms in particular, deal with the emergence of platforms as private transnational regulatory agents?
- What mechanisms, rights and/or duties are suitable to ensure access to platform data for public interest objectives?
- What access to platform data is needed and appropriate to ensure platform accountability and regulatory oversight?