EU citizens might get a ‘right to explanation’ about the decisions algorithms make

"While the new provision may seem great at first glance, the word “solely” makes the situation a little more slippery, says Ryan Calo, a University of Washington law professor who focuses on technology. Calo explained over email how companies that use algorithms could pretty easily sidestep the new regulation.

“All a firm needs to do is introduce a human—any human, however poorly trained or informed—somewhere in the system,” Calo said. “[V]oila, the firm is no longer basing their decision ‘solely on automated processing.'”

Calo wonders if the nebulous phrasing of this “right” will make it easy to satisfy in a way that’s ultimately unhelpful.

“Is it so clear, even in this supporting documentation, that firms will have to walk data subjects through the exact inputs and processes that led to the decision?” said Calo. “Or could they provide a general explanation of how the system works, including the kinds of data the system took into account? That wouldn’t be so hard.”"