Posts in Fairness
Fairer machine learning in the real world: Mitigating discrimination without collecting sensitive data

Decisions based on algorithmic, machine learning models can be unfair, reproducing biases in historical data used to train them. While computational techniques are emerging to address aspects of these concerns through communities such as discrimination-aware data mining (DADM) and fairness, accountability and transparency machine learning (FATML), their practical implementation faces real-world challenges. For legal, institutional or commercial reasons, organisations might not hold the data on sensitive attributes such as gender, ethnicity, sexuality or disability needed to diagnose and mitigate emergent indirect discrimination-by-proxy, such as redlining. Such organisations might also lack the knowledge and capacity to identify and manage fairness issues that are emergent properties of complex sociotechnical systems. This paper presents and discusses three potential approaches to deal with such knowledge and information deficits in the context of fairer machine learning. Trusted third parties could selectively store data necessary for performing discrimination discovery and incorporating fairness constraints into model-building in a privacy-preserving manner. Collaborative online platforms would allow diverse organisations to record, share and access contextual and experiential knowledge to promote fairness in machine learning systems. Finally, unsupervised learning and pedagogically interpretable algorithms might allow fairness hypotheses to be built for further selective testing and exploration.

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