Daily Briefs

Attorney cautions on use of AI in social welfare and law enforcement


Civil rights attorney Jennifer Lord warns that artificial intelligence programs used in social welfare and law enforcement settings  have high potential for causing dangerous and wide-ranging civil and human rights violations.

“The use of artificial intelligence (AI) to make decisions about benefits eligibility and access for vulnerable persons has already resulted in several, catastrophic failures that have negatively impacted hundreds of thousands of U.S. residents. There are also problems where AI has been used in law enforcement,” said Lord.

Lord made her remarks last month at a workshop titled “Litigating Algorithms: Challenging Use of Algorithmic Decision Making.” The event was hosted and sponsored by the AI Now Institute at New York University Law School. The AI Now Institute studies the social implications of artificial intelligence. More at ainowinstitute.org.

The event brought together legal and technical advocates who are litigating cases which examine and challenge algorithmic decision-making. Participants discussed how these systems are affecting various populations and safeguards and strategies being used in response to their unforeseen or unlawful outcomes.

Lord, a partner at Royal Oak-based Pitt, McGehee, Palmer, & Rivers, is lead counsel on a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of over 40,000 Michigan unemployment claimants. In the high-profile case, plaintiffs were wrongly accused of benefits fraud and illegally victimized by improper wage garnishments, bank levies and tax refund seizures due to a defective decision-making algorithm.

A recent Michigan Supreme Court decision has allowed the lawsuit to move forward.

“Unfortunately, the situation in Michigan involving a malfunctioning computer program making thousands of inaccurate determinations is hardly an isolated one,” said Lord, “There are reports from other states involving algorithms making bad decisions relating to Medicaid eligibility, level of disability benefits, public school teacher evaluations and sentencing guidelines for juvenile offenders.”

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DBA Detroit Legal Services Clinic July 23

The Detroit Legal Services Clinic provides information and advice from volunteer attorneys in the areas of divorce, child support, domestic relations issues, expungements, self-representation, and general civil law. The clinic is from 12-3 p.m. Tuesday, July 23 at the Penobscot Building, 13th Floor, Smart Detroit Conference Rooms, 645 Griswold in Detroit.

Volunteers may arrive at 11:30 a.m. for lunch. For more information, contact Mary Kovari at mkovari@detroitlawyer.org or (313) 961-6120, ext. 206.

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