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Algorithmic Justice League proposes calls for bug bounty programs for the discovery of algorithmic bias

Algorithms might seem like mathematical equations designed to treat everybody the same. However, they might contain bias and be harmful.

Algorithmic Justice League (AJL) released a report that ‘lays the foundation for a new type of bug bounty program’ to incentivize the discovery of algorithmic bias and harm.

AJL highlighted that bug bounty programs are increasingly popular - Google, Starbucks, the Department of Defence, and many more organizations worldwide reward researchers for identifying security bugs.

“While hackers are regularly rewarded for identifying security-related flaws in computer hardware and software, this important AJL report points the way toward careful expansion of these programs to help identify algorithmic harms specifically, as well as other kinds of socio-technical harms more broadly,” it said in a press release.

The report was co-authored by AJL researchers Josh Kenway, Camille François, Dr. Sasha Costanza-Chock, Inioluwa Deborah Raji, and Dr. Joy Buolamwini.

Joy Buolamwini is featured in the documentary Coded Bias (2020) by Shalini Kantayya. The documentary follows computer scientist Joy, along with data scientists, mathematicians, and watchdog groups from all over the world, as they fight to expose the discrimination within algorithms in employment, banking, insurance, dating, policing, and social media.

AJL states that currently, the bug bounty programs to surface algorithmic and socio-technical harms are in the earliest stages of development, ‘making the content and timing of this report and its recommendations all the more relevant and critical.’

“Done well, bug bounty programs and similar mechanisms might support the development of an inclusive community of practitioners, and they may be useful tools to help ensure robust, transparent processes for algorithmic harms discovery and disclosure…. We hope that this project provides some useful guidance to all of those who are interested in building a world where cybersecurity is improved, and where algorithmic systems and socio-technical systems of all kinds are more equitable and accountable,” the authors of the report state.

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