Artificial intelligence (AI) and automated decision-making (ADM) is a hot topic around the world with the uptake of generative AI tools like ChatGPT. Right in our own backyard we have the benefit of a Royal Commission that, while specifically concerned with the use of AI and ADM by the Australian Government, has recently made significant and relevant findings about how to get it right.
The Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme handed down its report on 7 July 2023 (Robodebt Report). The Robodebt Report includes 57 recommendations including a number of recommendations relating to ADM. While there has been much discussion recently about the potential opportunities presented by AI, particularly generative AI, the Robodebt Report comes as a stark reminder of the potential risks of AI and the likelihood of regulatory reform as the Australian Government looks to mitigate those potential risks.
The Robodebt Scheme refers to an automated debt assessment and recovery scheme employed by the Australian Government which resulted in hundreds of thousands of welfare recipients being wrongly accused of owing money to Centrelink. The Robodebt Report has made a number of adverse findings in relation to the Robodebt Scheme and recommended the referral of unnamed individuals for civil action or criminal prosecution. The Robodebt Scheme has also separately resulted in the Australian Government settling a class action lawsuit for over AUD 1.8 billion.
As mentioned above, the Robodebt Report includes a number of recommendations relating to ADM. In particular, the Robodebt Report has recommended that the Australian Government should consider legislative reform to introduce a consistent legal framework in which automation in government services can operate.
Where ADM is implemented, the Robodebt Report has recommended that:
The Robodebt Report has also recommended that the Australian Government should consider establishing a body, or expanding an existing body, with the power to monitor and audit ADM processes with regard to their technical aspects and their impact in respect of fairness, the avoiding of bias, and client usability.
The Robodebt Report has been handed down at a time when the Department of Industry, Science and Resources is currently consulting on safe and responsible AI in Australia more broadly and has published a discussion paper on this topic in June 2023 (AI Discussion Paper).
The AI Discussion Paper noted:
The AI Discussion Paper welcomed feedback on how the Australian Government can mitigate any potential risks of AI and support safe and responsible AI practices. Public consultation on the AI Discussion Paper closed on 4 August 2023 but submissions have not yet been published.
ADM is also a topic that is being addressed as part of the Privacy Act Review.
In particular, the Privacy Act Review Report, published by the Attorney-General’s Department in February 2023, relevantly proposed that:
Additionally, in relation to targeting in an online context, the Privacy Act Review Report relevantly proposed that there be:
Public consultation on the Privacy Act Review Report closed on 31 March 2023. For an overview of the proposals included in that report, please see our previous article here.
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Dec 06 2023