ACM Technology Policy Council Releases TechBrief on Safer Algorithmic Systems

February 2, 2023

ACM's global Technology Policy Council (TPC) has released "ACM TechBrief: Safer Algorithmic Systems." The TechBrief highlights the fact that the ubiquity of algorithmic systems creates serious risks that are not being adequately addressed. Embedded in immense numbers of products and processes, computing is ubiquitous in modern life. Algorithms are the underlying operating rules that control computers.

While incredibly useful and generally benign, when deployed in complex systems algorithms can cause a variety of profound harms to individuals and to society, threatening opportunity, liberty, and even life itself.  And while perfectly safe algorithmic systems are not possible, safer systems are. The TechBrief provides three recommendations:

  • To promote safer algorithmic systems, research is needed on both human-centered and technical software development methods, improved testing, audit trails, and monitoring mechanisms, as well as training and governance.
  • Building organizational safety cultures requires management leadership, focus in hiring and training, adoption of safety-related practices, and continuous attention.
  • Internal and independent human-centered oversight mechanisms, both within government and organizations, are necessary to promote safer algorithmic systems.

This TechBrief is the latest in a series of short technical bulletins that present scientifically grounded perspectives on the impact of specific developments or applications of technology. Designed to complement ACM's activities in the policy arena, TechBriefs aim to inform policymakers, the public, and others about the nature and implications of information technologies. Previous ACM TechBriefs focused on climate change, facial recognition, smart cities, quantum simulation, and election security. Topics under consideration for future issues include encryption security, media disinformation, content filtering, blockchain, accessibility and more.

You can subscribe to automatically receive each quarterly TechBriefs as it is published. Simply send an email with a single line in the body of the message that reads: "subscribe ACM-tpc-tech-briefs" followed by your first and last names. An automated reply will ask you to confirm your subscription to activate it.

Read the ACM news release.