IEEE Working Group P7003 Standard on Algorithmic Bias

The IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (A/IS) was launched in April 2016, with the goal of ensuring that ethical aspects of human well-being are considered in the design and manufacture of technology. These include individual, community, and societal ethical values, and the Initiative aims to ensure that every stakeholder involved in the design and development of such technologies is able to prioritize these ethical considerations. There are currently more than 850 A/IS Ethics professionals involved from around the world. One of the outputs of the Initiative is the Ethically Aligned Design report, the first edition is due for release on March 25th 2019 after extensive consultation and feedback from stakeholders.

Another output of the Initiative is the IEEE Standards Associate (IEEE-SA) P70xx series which aims to produce standards for the ethical design and use of technology. There are 14 of these standards. Ansgar Koene chairs the P7003 Working Group on Algorithmic Bias; Chris Clifton of Purdue University is Vice-Chair and Liz Dowthwaite is the secretary for the group. The standard will describe methods to help individuals or organisations who are creating algorithms to address and eliminate issues of negative bias, ways of documenting the process, and advice on considerations surrounding the sources of potential bias. This will help them to be more accountable and transparent about how algorithms are targeting, assessing, and influencing users and stakeholders affected by the algorithm.

The group has had monthly online meetings since May 2017, along with many meetings between subgroups looking at a broad range of issues from legal frameworks and the psychology of bias, to system design and risk assessments. At the end of February 2019 they had the first face-to-face meeting (co-located in London and New York), where across two days the group worked to put together the first rough draft of the standard document. Once the standard has been developed to a point that it can be released, it first must go to a Sponsor Ballot, and then the IEEE-SA Standards Board must approve it before it can be published. The whole process can take 4 years – it is hoped that P7003 will go to ballot towards the end of 2019.