Why New York City is getting an algorithms officer

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Why New York City is getting an algorithms officer

Mayor Bill de Blasio issued an executive order on Tuesday to create the position of “algorithms management and policy officer.”
November 20, 2019

From funding formulas to pretrial risk assessment, automated decisions are being made all around us, affecting our lives in myriad ways. In an effort to ensure that such decisions don’t negatively impact New Yorkers’ lives because of error or bias, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued an executive order on Tuesday to create the position of “algorithms management and policy officer.”

The officer will be responsible for – among other things – establishing governing principles for the ethical use of algorithmic tools, implementing policies to guide the use of those tools, and educating and engaging the public on automated decisions systems use in the city. The order also creates a steering committee and advisory committee to advise the officer on best practices for algorithmic tools.

The order springs from a task force on automated decisions created by the New York City Council in 2017. That task force – which was criticized for making slow progress and not discussing actual uses of ADS in the city – published its report this month, with recommendations for building an ADS organizational structure within city government and providing agencies with more funding for ADS management and staffing.

Julie Samuels, executive director of the industry group Tech:NYC, was a part of the task force and applauded the executive order, but emphasized that funding for an office is crucial. “This is a really important first step and I’m glad to see it. I think that there are more recommendations in the report that I hope over time the city implements,” she said. “We really want to make sure that this ends up a full office with real authority and fully resourced.”

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

Annie McDonough
Annie McDonough
is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.
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