AI Audits: Black Box vs. White Box Perspectives


  • Tal Zarsky


  • Courtney Bowman
  • Sandra Wachter
  • Gianclaudio Malgieri
  • Jane Bambauer

Organisation: Haifa University

Room: Online 1

Timing: 14:15 - 15:30 on 28 January 2021

Algorithmic decision-making has spread throughout the public and private sector, and with it, growing concerns of unfairness. These concerns have led to calls for greater transparency, especially when the processes are generated by artificial intelligence and premised on personal information. Such calls have joined actual and proposed legal requirements.

A common approach to resolve transparency concerns calls for “breaking open the black box”; providing detailed information as to the algorithm’s inner workings. However, algorithm developers often strongly object to such measures, while arguing that they undermine their trade-secrets and compromise integrity by enabling gaming. These responses have led to considering auditing methods which examine the algorithm’s inputs and outputs to establish verifiable measures of accuracy and fairness. The panel will strive to establish which of these two strategies provides an optimal balance of competing equities and constraints in various contexts.

• What solutions is industry already providing, and are they sufficient?
• Can firms meet disclosure requirements sufficiently by providing counter-factual-based explanations?
• What are the limits and benefits of auditing methods analyzing the inputs and outputs of algorithmic processes? Does a shift to this form of evaluation reflect a broader structural change from relying on procedure to examining outcomes?
• Are there lessons to be learned from the managing of the COVID-19 crisis, as to how information about AI systems should be revealed?


Tal Zarsky

University of Haifa (IL)

Tal Zarsky is a professor of law at the University of Haifa – Faculty of Law. His research focuses on legal theory and allocations, as well as information privacy, algorithmic decisions, cybersecurity, telecommunications and media law, internet policy, and online commerce. He has published numerous articles and book chapters in the U.S. on these matters. He completed his doctoral dissertation at Columbia University School of Law. He earned a joint bachelor’s degree in law and psychology at the Hebrew University with high honors and his master degree (in law) from Columbia University.


Courtney Bowman

Palantir Technologies (US)

Courtney Bowman is Director of Privacy and Civil Liberties Engineering at Palantir Technologies. For over 10 years, his work at Palantir has been aimed at addressing the confluence of issues at the intersection of policy, law, technology, ethics, and social norms. In working extensively with government and commercial partners, Bowman’s team focuses on enabling Palantir to build and deploy data integration, sharing, and analysis software that respects and reinforces privacy, security, and data protection principles and community expectations. Prior to Palantir, Bowman earned degrees in Physics and Philosophy at Stanford University and worked as a quantitative and economic analyst at Google.

Sandra Wachter

University of Oxford (UK)

Dr. Sandra Wachter is a lawyer and Research Fellow (Asst. Prof.) in Data Ethics, AI, robotics and Internet Regulation/cyber-security at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. Sandra is also a Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute in London. Sandra is specialising in technology-, IP-, and data protection law as well as European-, International-, human rights and medical law. Her current research focuses on the legal and ethical implications of Big Data, AI, and robotics as well as governmental surveillance, predictive policing, and human rights online.

Gianclaudio Malgieri

EDHEC Augmented Law Institute (FR)

Prof. Dr. Gianclaudio Malgieri is an Associate Professor of Law & Technology at the EDHEC Business School in Lille (France), where he conducts research at the Augmented Law Institute and teaches Data Protection Law, Intellectual Property Law, ICT Law and Business Law. In the 2019 he is the only European scholar to receive the Future of Privacy Award. He is also Editorial Board Member of Computer Law and Security Review and Attorney at Law. He holds a PhD in Law at the Law, Science, Technology and Society (LSTS) Research Centre of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, where he is Affiliated Researcher.
He got an LLM with honours at the University of Pisa (2016) and a JD with honours at S.Anna School of Advanced Studies of Pisa (2017).

Jane Bambauer

University of Arizona (US)

Jane Bambauer is a Professor of Law at the University of Arizona. Prof. Bambauer's research assesses the social costs and benefits of Big Data, and questions the wisdom of many well-intentioned privacy laws. Her articles have appeared in the Stanford Law Review, the Michigan Law Review, the California Law Review, and the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. Prof. Bambauer's own data-driven research explores biased judgment, legal education, and legal careers. She holds a B.S. in mathematics from Yale College and a J.D. from Yale Law School.