NEWS8 September 2020

Most UK adults do not trust algorithms

AI News Trends UK

UK – The majority of the British public do not trust computer algorithms to make decisions about any aspect of their lives, according to research from BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT.

Algorithms code_Crop

The BCS found that 53% of UK adults have not faith in any organisation to use algorithms to make judgements about them.

The survey was carried out by YouGov with a total representative sample size of 2,076 adults. Fieldwork took place online between 28 August and 1 September, and all participants were shown a description of an algorithm beforehand.

It found that trust in the use of algorithms in education was at 7%, although this rose to 16% of 18 to 24-year-olds.

The figures follow the recent use of an algorithm to grade this year’s A-level results, which were published last month. The algorithm was later dropped by the government following complaints about the results it produced, and teacher predictions were used instead.

The disciplines where algorithms were most trusted by the public were in the NHS ( 17%), financial services ( 16%) and intelligence agencies ( 12%).

Police and major tech companies like Apple and Google were both trusted on their use of algorithms by 11% of the population. Trust was also low in social media algorithms ( 8%), according to the survey.

The survey found that 63% of the over-55s were negative about the use of algorithms in public life, compared with 42% of 18 to 24-year-olds.

Dr Bill Mitchell, director of policy at BCS, said: “The problem government and business face are balancing people’s expectations of instant decisions, on something like credit for a sofa, with fairness and accounting for the individual, when it comes to life-changing moments like receiving exam grades.

“That’s why we need a professionalised data science industry, independent impact assessments wherever algorithms are used in making high-stakes judgements about people’s lives, and a better understanding of AI and algorithms by the policymakers who give them sign-off.”