Chau Introduces Automated Decision Systems Accountability Act of 2021

AB 13 seeks to prevent algorithm-driven systems from resulting in discrimination.

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Ed Chau (D–Monterey Park) introduced legislation that would bring accountability and transparency to algorithm-driven systems used by businesses and public entities, which rely on machine learning or artificial intelligence to make decisions affecting people’s lives.    

Specifically, Assembly Bill (AB) 13, titled the Automated Decision System Accountability Act of 2021, would require any business in California that provides a program or device using an automated decision system, or ADS, to establish processes to continually test for biases during its development and usage, and to conduct an impact assessment to determine any disproportionate impacts on protected classes.

“As more entities develop and rely on the use of algorithm-driven systems in making critical decisions, we need to mitigate any negative impacts they present to people’s lives,” said Assemblymember Ed Chau. “Establishing accountability and transparency measures for these systems is increasingly urgent, especially as we seek to rebuild our economy in an equitable way following the impacts of COVID-19.  If we take no action now, it will become increasingly difficult to implement these regulations since more entities will have deployed an ADS infrastructure without consideration for these issues.”

According to a 2019 report by The Brookings Institution’s Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative, “algorithmic or automated decision systems use data and statistical analyses to classify people and assess their eligibility for a benefit or penalty.” The application of these systems can assist with credit decisions, employment screening, insurance eligibility, and marketing, as well as the delivery of government services, criminal justice sentencing, and probation decisions.

A survey released in 2018 by the Pew Research Center found that public attitudes toward algorithmic decision-making reflect concern that many of these systems simply reinforce existing biases and disparities under the guise of algorithmic neutrality. The survey revealed that six-in-ten Americans (58%) feel that computer programs will always reflect the biases of the people who designed them, and their use is unacceptable due to concerns around data privacy, fairness, and overall effectiveness.

”Algorithmic bias is shockingly common, and affects everything from policing to decisions on who gets a mortgage or is admitted to college,” said Greenlining Institute Technology Equity Legal Counsel Vinhcent Le, who is currently completing a report on algorithmic bias to be released next year. “The bias built into these automated decision systems is usually unintentional, but it does real harm to people of color and women. We need accountability and transparency to begin to fix deeply flawed systems.”

The Greenlining Institute is the sponsor of the Automated Decision System Accountability Act of 2021.
Assemblymember Ed Chau represents the 49th Assembly District, comprised of the communities of Alhambra, Arcadia, El Monte, Monterey Park, Rosemead, San Gabriel, San Marino, Temple City and portions of Montebello, and South El Monte.